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How to Calm an Overtired Baby: Tips to Soothe an Overtired Newborn

overtired newborns

For many new parents, sleep is like gold dust - scarce, hard to find, and scattered into lots of little chunks! Every parent wants their baby to sleep well, but what you might not know is that, if you aren't careful, babies can actually become too overtired to fall asleep!

It sounds crazy, but it’s because their body activates a stress response, leading to adrenaline and other chemicals being released and making it much harder for them to relax. The good news is Nested Bean’s sleep experts are here to help you learn how to calm an overtired baby.

By keeping an eye on your baby's sleep cues and using some extra baby sleep aids, you can have your newborn sleeping through the night without having to deal with their fussy, overtired side:

  • Sound
  • Prevention
  • Golden Moment
  • Newborn sleep cues
  • Help to sleep

We’ll talk more about this later on as we discuss how to soothe an overtired baby. First, how can you tell you’re dealing with an overtired newborn in the first place?

Signs You’re Dealing With an Overtired Newborn

Baby crying might have all sounded the same before you became a parent, but once you have a baby of your own you start to notice the different nuances in their cries and what they all mean. This is why we’ve compiled insights on the different baby cries meanings to help you make sense of why your newborn cries when put down.

For lots of babies, being overtired leads to a nasal cry that builds and gets stronger over time. It may be higher pitched than their usual cry, and your baby might arch their back while crying too.

Along with the distinctive cry, there are a few other signs that your baby might be too tired to sleep. 

Overtired babies tend to fall asleep for short naps rather than longer stretches of sleep, start falling asleep at random points throughout the day, and (most frustratingly) they may fight sleep when you put them down in their crib. We have a guide on how to get baby to nap longer if you’re struggling with this.

You might even find your baby waking after they've already fallen asleep, despite the fact that they clearly need to catch some Zs! 

Whatever the case, your baby is fussing and you want to get them soothed in a hurry. Leaving an overtired baby to cry may not be the answer. So, learn how to calm an overtired baby below!

comforting overtired newborn fussy baby

How to Calm an Overtired Baby and Get Them to Sleep

It's best to prevent newborn babies from becoming overtired in the first place, but mistakes happen and it's certainly not always easy to spot the signs before it's too late!

If you have an overtired newborn on your hands, and you've made sure they aren't crying for another reason - remember, your overtired baby's cry will sound high pitched and nasal - there are a wide variety of things that you can do to calm your baby to sleep. Here are some tips on how to soothe an overtired baby.

Create a calm atmosphere 

If your baby is fussy or stressed at bedtime for any reason, don’t make the mistake of thinking leaving an overtired baby to cry is the solution. They could be stressed out with the atmosphere they’re in. 

So, making sure that their sleep environment is calm and soothing without unnecessary stimulation is a great first step to take in regards to how to soothe an overtired baby.

You can achieve this by doing things like installing blackout blinds if you have streetlights nearby outside, or investing in a baby-safe white noise machine if you live in a noisy house or apartment building. 

For a baby who has only recently made the womb-to-world transition, these little changes can make a big difference!

Soothe with a routine

Along with having a comforting and quiet atmosphere for your baby to sleep in, you should also learn how to soothe an overtired baby through a calming newborn bedtime routine.

This can involve whatever you want, from a nighttime bath to a bedtime story to a baby massage for sleep, but make sure it's consistent - this way, your baby can make positive sleep associations that help them understand when it's time to sleep.

Try swaddling

This is one of the best tips we have to offer as it pertains to how to calm an overtired baby. 

If your baby hasn't started to show any signs of rolling over yet, it's still safe to swaddle them - and it could be a great way of calming an overtired baby! What is a swaddle, though? And why swaddle baby in the first place?

This essentially mimics the warm, cozy womb they were accustomed to in the first 9 months of their life. It’s a great way to soothe an overtired newborn and get them calm. 

You can learn about the different swaddle types in our blog, along with tips on implementing the best swaddle technique. But, how you dress baby for sleep is so important that it’s worth investing in our weighted newborn swaddles here at Nested Bean.

Our Zen Neo swaddle pod is a great way to get a perfect swaddle fit every time, and is gently weighted to mimic your soothing touch and help calm your overtired baby to sleep.

We also have other styles like our zipper swaddle, transitional swaddle, bamboo fabric swaddle, and more! Find out firsthand why Nested Bean is your trusted choice for everything from the best transition swaddle to the best swaddle for baby who hates swaddles.

But, eventually you’ll have to make the swaddle transition. We have guides on how long do you swaddle a baby and how to know when to stop swaddling baby. When that time comes, though, you can rely on a sleep sack as the next best thing.

Try a sleep sack

When your baby starts to roll over and can't be swaddled anymore (usually at around 3 or 4 months), it can be a great opportunity to transition to something like a sleep sack. 

But what is a sleep sack, and what’s the difference between a sleep sack vs swaddle? This is essentially a swaddle that’s looser and allows for freedom of arm movement, preventing the risk of SIDS.

The benefits of sleep sack mean you can avoid disruptions to your newborn sleep schedule or baby nap schedule. And again, Nested Bean is here to offer the weighted sleep sack you need to soothe an overtired newborn.

Our Zen Sack classic features a lightly weighted pad that mimics your touch and can help provide gentle pressure similar to swaddling. Not only that, but it can be easily reversed and worn backward for independently rolling tummy sleepers!

From our bamboo fabric sleep sack to our winter sleep sack, we’ve got all the weighted sleepwear you need at Nested Bean. We even have the best baby pajamas! Find out why by seeing what a difference they can make in your baby’s bedtime routine today.

Evaluate your schedule

If your baby is consistently becoming overtired every day or most days, you might want to take a look at the sleep schedule you have them on.

Remember, a newborn baby can only be comfortably awake for up to 90 minutes at a time - if you have intervals longer than this between naps or before nighttime sleep, you might end up with a tired baby who's feeling too fussy to sleep.

How to Prevent an Overtired Newborn in the First Place

There you have it - how to calm an overtired baby. But ultimately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to combatting overtiredness, the best thing you can do is keep your baby from reaching this point in the first place. 

By being careful with your little one's sleep and ensuring that their schedule aligns with their natural rhythms, you can keep them from becoming overtired in the future. Here are three key points to keep in mind when trying to prevent overtiredness:

Newborn schedule

Consistency is the most important element of any sleep schedule, especially for your little one, and you can start planning out a regular sleep schedule when your baby is 2 or 3 months old.

At this age, your baby can still only stay awake for around an hour and a half at a time so make sure to plan for regular naps to avoid overtiredness. For more tips on baby sleep needs, check out our blog on sleep schedules at every age.

Golden moment

When putting your baby to bed, you'll want to make sure you're doing it at the right time - otherwise, you'll find that they're either too awake to fall asleep, or too overtired to fall asleep! Baby sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp has talked about this conundrum before:

Be punctual. When your baby’s wake window comes to a close, drop what you’re doing and put down your baby to sleep. The key is to prepare her for sleep before she shows signs of overtiredness.  - Wonder Baby

'Many tired babies can sleep anywhere, anytime. But those with a challenging temperament or poor state control live on a tightrope. Growing weariness can suddenly tip them off balance and send them crashing down from a happy alertness to exhausted misery in a blink.'

That's why you need to go to sleep at just the right moment; the 'golden moment' where they're drowsy enough to sleep, but not so tired they become cranky.

Newborn sleep cues

The best way to know if your baby is at the perfect moment to be put to bed is by following their sleep cues. These are unique for every baby, but they'll usually be made up of a few of the following behaviors: yawning, blinking more than usual, becoming quieter, softly crying (or 'grizzling'), rubbing their eyes, and stretching.

However, there might be a few not listed here that are totally unique to your little one - just keep an eye on their behaviors at different points in the day to figure them out!

This way, you'll be able to put your baby to bed at the optimal time mentioned earlier - awake, but drowsy.

Recommended amount of sleep

overtired newborn sleepchart

The amount of sleep your baby needs is highly dependent on their age - generally speaking, the older your baby is, the less sleep they'll need in a 24-hour period. For example, while a newborn baby will need 15 to 18 hours of sleep throughout the day, this reduces to between 14 and 16 by the time they're 2 or 3 months old.

However, it's important to bear in mind that your baby is unique, and that it's perfectly fine for them to sleep a little more or a little less than charts and diagrams tell you - you know your baby best!

Final Thoughts on How to Calm an Overtired Baby

Having an overtired newborn baby can be a frustrating time - after all, if they're that tired, why don't they just sleep? 

But don't worry; with a few sleep aids, a calming sleep routine, and a revamped schedule that better suits newborn sleep patterns, you'll be leaving this problem behind and be on the path to healthy sleep habits! 

Now that you know what to do when baby is overtired, you can get back on track fast. Just remember the key takeaways of this guide on how to soothe an overtired baby:

  • Overtiredness leads to a stress response that keeps your baby awake
  • An overtired cry will sound higher pitched and more nasally than other cries
  • Prevention is the key here - make sure your baby is being put to bed awake, but drowsy
  • Keep an eye on your baby's unique sleep cues to know when they're getting sleepy
  • Consider changing your current schedule to better match your baby's sleep needs (a newborn can only be awake comfortably for 90 minutes at a time)
  • Sleep aids can be a lifesaver here, so try blackout blinds and baby-safe white noise machines that reduce overstimulation
  • Swaddling can soothe fussy babies and reduce the overstimulation that might be making their overtiredness worse
  • Our Zen Sack classic, with its gently weighted pad to mimic your touch, is perfect for soothing babies who struggle to sleep for a range of reasons

Now that you know how to calm an overtired baby, you can get back on track and prevent this issue in the future. We hope you and your family as a whole are able to sleep better!

Learn more about baby sleep in our blog with tips on how to get baby to sleep through the night, newborn sleep training, transitioning to the crib, when should baby sleep in own room, signs of sleep regression in baby, how to help a teething baby sleep, and more.

Otherwise, invest in the best baby sleepwear online at Nested Bean as we officially wrap up our guide on how to soothe an overtired baby. From the best transitional sleep sack to the best sleep sack for winter, you can count on our products to help you soothe an overtired newborn.

Best of luck!

Athena S.

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