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Overtiredness - Explained!

Updated: Feb 1

Overtiredness is usually present in most families I work with. It is so unbelievably common - because it can be so hard to manage! This doesn't just affect children, but adults too and often us as parents are in a full cycle of it!

What is Overtiredness?

Overtiredness happens when sleep stretches are too far apart, and longer than their little bodies can take. Cortisol increases in the body, giving a "second wind" of energy to get them through until sleep does happen. It can often be an emotional state that blocks us from preventing sleep even though we are really tired! And actually - it the definition isn't just that they are "really tired" - it's that they are "too tired" and that's when the cortisol increase comes in that survival mode!

The cortisol (the hormone that helps us wake up, feel energised) then overtakes the melatonin hormones (the one that helps us sleep). While we don't produce melatonin in the day, the peak of the cortisol hormones in the day also then impacts the melatonin production at nights too!

Signs of Overtiredness

- Irritable

- Sleep "drunk!"

- Emotional, unable to regulate

- Second wind of energy

When there has been too long in-between sleep, there are often signs within the sleep habits that often stem from overtiredness. In little ones this often shows as:

- Fought/Short Naps

- Fought Bedtimes

- Frequent Night Awakenings

- Early Rises

And then what happens is that there becomes a full cycle of Overtiredness. The night awakenings make the night sleep poor, so the next day they are unable to last until their usual nap time. Overtiredness then kicks in during the day because they have the night sleep to catch up on so the next nap is fought or short... this then means the nap isn't great quality and overtiredness builds in the day - which then affects bedtime and therefore the night awakenings and early rises! This is called Chronic Overtiredness! You can see how confusing it is right? And just how much it impacts sleep!

Often then what happens here is because the cortisol is taking over when they are overtired, grumpy and emotionally strong - they then often need more assistance to sleep to help them calm.

Baby yawning in parents arms
Sleepy Baby

How to prevent it?

Often when our little ones fight sleep, or we have bedtime battles and frequent night awakenings - we often instinctively think that keeping them awake longer will solve the problem. In reality - it often makes it worse. You might have been in that situation yourself where little one is waking super early - so you make bedtime later. And all that happens is they wake up at the same time or even earlier than before! This is because of the build up of overtiredness!

1. It is also completely against our parental instincts to put our little ones down for sleep before they seem tired - and often this is a great way to overcome it. I often call it topping up their "sleep tank". Earlier bedtimes and naptimes are great for topping up sleep! 2. Following age appropriate wake windows can help. Start on the smaller scale to help overcome the overtiredness and top up their much needed sleep. Putting them down at an age appropriate stretch every single time will help ensure they aren't too far stretched.

3. Tracking the sleep and the impacts of timings can work really well, especially if your little one is really time sensitive.

If you've find the article helpful, please do feel free to share this link for others and to help support them!

You can also find further support in my responsive online courses, support group, or by contacting me at

Jade Sleep Nanny x

If you're finding it hard to navigate changes in your child's sleep, I'd recommend my support membership system

 here to fully bring consistently great sleep.

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