Struggling to get your overtired child to sleep? Here’s how to avoid overtiredness, and cope with it when it does happen
An understanding of how hormones and neurotransmitters impact on sleep can help you when it comes to getting your toddler to sleep. When it comes to sleep, the key hormones are melatonin and cortisol. The levels of these change through the day, which is why it’s easier to fall asleep at certain times of day. Cortisol is the hormone that keeps us awake and alert. It’s at its highest at 8am, dropping throughout the day. When your little one is overtired or hyped, this stress will result in cortisol being released, preventing an easy shift to sleep.Melatonin increases in the absence of light and gets us ready to drop off to sleep. It’s important to know this because by working with the hormones, half that bedtime battle will be won. To get your toddler to sleep with ease, you should help the brain release melatonin and steer clear of trying to put your child to sleep once her cortisol levels are high. When your child’s overtired or has been stimulated for too long, she has to try to remain alert and focused. To do this, her brain releases cortisol. As cortisol keeps your tot awake, it’s not a good idea to stimulate or stress her when a sleep is due, or to allow her to become overtired in the first place.
Your little one needs very regular sleeps to process all she learns during the day. For this reason, a baby has short 'awake times'. A newborn can comfortably manage 45 minutes of stimulation or ‘awake time’ before becoming fatigued. A 6 month old can cope with close to two hours of ‘awake time’. A toddler can cope with between four and five hours of ‘awake time’. When this ‘awake time’ draws to a close, your toddler begins to become drowsy and ready for sleep. If you settle your toddler at this time, it’s easier for her to fall asleep because the melatonin overrides the cortisol. If you keep your toddler awake past the age-appropriate ‘awake time’, she’ll need to access hormones to encourage alertness – that means adrenaline and cortisol will be released. These 'stress' hormones aren’t helpful when it comes to settling your child to sleep, and this is why an overtired toddler fights sleep.
Step 1 of fatigue:
When your toddler becomes overtired she may start to say “no” or become a little resistant.
Step 2 of fatigue:
If these signals are ignored, she may start to use more obvious self-soothing signals, such as sucking her thumb or looking for a dummy.
Step 3 of fatigue:
If you miss these signals, your little one may begin to show autonomic signals [responses that occurs without her conscious control], such as:
Now the signs are clear – your little one’s overtired.
Final step of overtiredness:
If you miss all these signs, the probable outcomes include your toddler:
All of these final steps are signs of Flight, Fright and Fight - the classic response to stress hormones.
The simple way to avoid overtiredness is to ensure your child is settled to sleep according to the awake times appropriate for her age.
Toddlers who are overtired tend to become very active. To get her to sleep, try to:
Help, my 21 month baby suddenly does not want to go to sleep.
Up to now he has been a brilliant sleeper - going straight down and usually sleeping through the night.
But for the past week or so he has screamed and screamed every time we have put him to bed. It is heart breaking. He now screams for between 20 and 30 minutes before falling to sleep. If we go in to comfort him it seems to make the situation worse.
We have two older children and I think he now realises that they go to bed later than he does. But even putting him to bed at the same time doesn't seem to work.
sorry your having a tough time, my son did this at 20mnths, and sadly the only thing that worked was leaving him, like you said going back makes it worse, jack would go crazy! he stopped after 2weeks, seemed like forever but slowly he calmed and after 2-3weeks everything was normal again! I just used to creep in before i went to bed and peep at him to reasure myself.
Sorry i havent given much advice but i didnt know what to do either, best of luck hun xx
As Laura said,it is just a case of leaving him.As long as you know your son's not ill,not hungry,not in pain,it's only making it worse keep going back to him.If he works out that when he cries you come back,he'll go on doing it.
I did find around two some of mine started needing less sleep,and not too late in the day,if they were to go to sleep without messing about.Of course a calm predictable routine every day helps too,especially at bedtime.
It's probably just a phase,and if you stick to his normal routine,and don't give in to the crying it should pass .We have had this with some,maybe all of ours.The worst was my eldest,who kept it up,every nap and all night for a fortnight,but we kept going with his normal routine and it did stop.
My daughter is doing the same just now and my son goes through phases of it, just trying their luck I think. I've just found its a case of perserverence like with most things and the phase passes once they realise they're not getting there own way. If he's going to bed when he's tired he just needs to relearn going to sleep again.
You have my sympathy though cause it is hardgoing and heartbreaking, I hate hearing my kids cry but I'm determined to have well behaved children who aren't spoilt
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