Almost every week I speak with a family who say that they do not understand why their child doesn't sleep through the night because they really 'tire them out' during the day and before bed. I am here to tell you to STOP! Overtiredness is highly likely to be one of the reasons they wake up at night. If a child is over tired this will cause increased cortisol levels, which means that when your child naturally wakes at night to a light level of sleep, instead of dropping off again naturally, they wake fully and likely need support to go back to sleep.
If you are dealing with night wakings, ask yourself, are you doing too much? Does your child need to do all of the clubs after school? Do they need to go for a run to 'burn off energy' Or do they actually need some early nights and a little more time to wind down and relax?
The Pitfalls of Crashing Out
One common misconception is the idea that children should immediately fall asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. Now this may seem like a dream come true for parents who are eager for some (much needed!) downtime. However, the reality is that such an abrupt transition to sleep is not going to help your child develop healthy sleep patterns. Children who crash out are more likely to struggle with self-settling and may take longer to develop the crucial skill of falling asleep independently.
Drawn-Out Bedtimes and the 'Overtiredness Hoax'
On the other hand, you may find that bedtimes are becoming drawn-out, fraught, and prone to tears and meltdowns. This kind of situation can often be mistaken for a lack of tiredness, but it is, in fact, a sign of overtiredness. Overtired children can become hyperactive or highly emotional and then find it challenging to settle down, resulting in prolonged and frustrating bedtimes.
The Importance of Ruling Out Tiredness
If you're finding bedtime has become a battle, the first step should be to rule out tiredness. Instead of relying on overstimulation and extended playtime to tire out your child, consider incorporating longer naps, earlier bedtimes, and calmer afternoons into their routine. Creating a peaceful pre-sleep environment can make a significant difference in helping your child transition into a restful night's sleep.
While fresh air and regular exercise are essential for every child's overall well-being, using these activities solely as a means to induce a crash-out at bedtime can be counterproductive. A child's ability to self-settle is a vital skill for healthy sleep, and forcing them to fall asleep quickly does not contribute to the development of this skill.
Children who crash out at bedtime are more likely to experience confusion and distress if they wake up during the night. Instead of having the ability to self-soothe and return to sleep independently, overtired children may struggle to settle back down, leading to disrupted sleep for both them and their parents.
What you can do about overtiredness in Children
To develop a successful sleep pattern, it's crucial to shift the focus from desperate attempts to tire out your child to creating a balanced and soothing bedtime routine. By creating an environment that promotes relaxation and self-settling, you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits that will benefit them in the long run. If you find yourself in the exhausting cycle of trying to tire out your little one, it might be time to take a step back and reconsider your approach to bedtime.
Not Sure Where To Start?
Please don't panic! I'm certainly not here to tell you you've got everything wrong, far from it. Every loving parent can benefit from a helping hand from time to time
If you would like more support with creating a successful bedtime routine that works for your child and for you, then I would love to hear from you. Please book a free call to discuss my range of sleep training options to get you and your family sleeping well with lasting results.
(It works, I promise; you can read some of my reviews here from some of the parents I have helped.)