Sleep Consultant

My Baby Refuses to Nap! Could Over-tiredness Be the Reason?

As parents, we all want the best for our babies, and sometimes, we might keep them up a little longer, thinking it’s okay. And, have you ever thought, “Hmm, if I skip a nap, maybe they’ll sleep better tonight”? It sounds like it could work, right? 

But here is the twist – it doesn’t really help. In fact, it can lead to your baby becoming overtired and struggling with sleep more than ever.

Imagine your baby, who usually loves their 2-hour naps, is still wide awake after 3 hours. You would think they would be even more ready to sleep, but the truth is, they are probably starting to get overtired. And an overtired baby? They are going to find it even harder to settle down and get the good sleep they need. 

When infants stay awake for longer than they can handle, they become overtired. For example, if the child generally sleeps for 2 hours but is still awake after 3 hours, he is likely to get overtired.

How does it work?

It all starts with something called melatonin. It is a special hormone that is produced by your child’s body when they are ready to sleep. Yes, this is the hormone responsible for promoting sleep. If you put your child to bed at this time, their body will provide them with everything they need to fall asleep. 

But, if your child misses the right time to go to bed, things change. Their body stops making as much melatonin and starts making other hormones called cortisol and adrenaline instead. These are wake-up hormones, which help us stay alert and awake. This is why, sometimes, if it’s past their bedtime, your child might suddenly seem wide awake and not tired at all, even though they really are tired. This is what some people call a “second wind.”

Additionally, sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in night wakings and early morning wakeups. Our bodies all have a natural melatonin surge at night and then a natural cortisol increase in the morning. Sleep suffers when the natural flow of hormones is disrupted on a regular basis. 

How to know if my baby is overtired? 

Babies are different. Some may need more sleep than what is shown in the chart below, while others need less. But, the majority of babies have a similar sleep pattern.

If your baby’s sleeping time is not even close to the one on this chart, then they may be overtired. This can affect the duration and quality of their daytime nap and nighttime sleep. 

AgeDaytime sleepNumber of
Naps durationAwake timeNighttime sleepTotal sleep hours per day
NewbornSleeps all day,
wakes up to feed
5 naps
or more
15 min. – 4 hours45 – 60 min.8 – 14 hours
wakes up to
feed every
2 – 4 houre
17 – 19 hours
1 month5 – 7 hours4 – 540 min. – 3 hours60 – 90 min.8 – 10 hours14 – 17 hours
2 months5 – 7 hours4 – 540 min. – 3 hours60 – 90 min8 – 10 hours14 – 17 hours
3 months4 – 6 hours440 min. – 2:30 hours90 min.9 – 11 hours13 – 16 hours
4 months4 – 5 hours3 – 440 min. – 2:30 hours1:45 – 2:00 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 16 hours
5 months3 – 4 hours2 – 440 min. – 2:30 hours2:00 – 2:15 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 16 hours
6 months2:30 – 4:30 hours2 – 440 min. – 2:30 hours2:15 – 2:30 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
7 months2 – 4 hours2 – 3 1 – 2 hours2:45 hours (до 3:00) 10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
8 months2 – 4 hours2 – 31 – 2 hours3:30 hours (3:00 – 4:00) 10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
9 months2 – 4 hours21 – 1:30 hours3:45 hours (3:00 – 4:00)10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
10 months2 – 3 hours21 – 1:30 hours3 – 4 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
11 months2 – 3 hours21 – 1:30 hours3:30 – 4:30 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 15 hours
12 months2 – 3 hours1 – 2 –3:30 – 4:30 hours10 – 12 hours13 – 14 hours
How much sleep does my baby need?

Sometimes, it might not seem like your child is tired, even when they are. This can be tricky because overtired babies don’t always act tired. 

Instead, they might be:

  • Too dependent on you (more than usual) or seem clingy
  • Overexcited
  • Hyperactive
  • Impatient
  • Easily irritable and whiny
  • Restless and picky
  • Fussy
  • Refuse to sleep (even though they actually need sleep)
  • They may be inconsolable and very difficult to settle

In addition to that, an overtired child has a:

What to do if my baby wakes up from sleep crying every time?

When your child is overtired, they often wake up in a bad mood (crying, grumbling). When babies don’t get enough rest, they can wake up feeling really cranky, showing it by crying or fussing. In such cases I recommend parents to gradually reduce the amount of time their child is awake.  You can gently shorten the amount of time your baby is up by about 10 to 20 minutes. This small change can make a big difference, and it can help you find the right wake window for your little one.

What should I do if, shortly after I take my child to bed for a night’s sleep, my baby wakes up crying?

This is another sign of overtiredness – if your child goes to bed for a night’s sleep and about an hour later wakes up crying. 

When a child falls asleep but then wakes up crying about an hour later, it’s often a sign they didn’t get enough rest during the day. To help with this, you can try extending their bedtime routine a bit, making it longer and more relaxing. Also, consider shortening the time they are awake during the day by about 20–30 minutes. These adjustments can help your child settle into sleep more comfortably and stay asleep longer.

How can I soothe my overtired baby?

Seeing your baby overtired and upset can be really hard. Here are some gentle ways to help calm them down:

  • Find a quiet, dimly lit space. A calm environment can work wonders for an overtired baby.
  • Speak in soft, soothing tones. It’s tough, especially when your baby is crying loudly, but keeping your voice gentle can help reassure them. Whisper kind, comforting words.
  • If they are resisting being held, gently place them on their back. They might need a little space to start calming down.

I know these moments can be incredibly challenging. Your patience and calm presence are powerful. Try to avoid eye contact for now, as it can be stimulating for them when they are trying to settle.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. If your child’s sleep issues become a significant concern, don’t hesitate to contact a sleep consultant.

Baby sleep 1-4 months | Baby sleep 5-18 months | Naps | Newborn Sleep | Sleep Schedule | Toddler Sleep


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