One of the most frustrating experiences as a parent is trying to get your baby to fall asleep when they seem to be fighting it every single step of the way. Most of the time, we assume overtiredness. But sometimes, the opposite is true. Let's learn about undertiredness and how it can play a huge role in your baby's sleep.

Overtired babies are SCARY. There is no denying it. But sometimes you will get the feeling whatever you are looking for: the answer is an overtired baby. It seems to be the evil root of all baby sleep problems.

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But there is one thing we don't pay enough attention to, and that is undertiredness. Undertiredness is not talked about a lot in the baby sleep community.

So in this article, we will dig a little bit deeper into the subject of undertiredness and how it can affect baby sleep.

This article covers:

Don't Underestimate Undertiredness

Undertiredness in babies is often underrated because it is not as well-known or understood as overtiredness. When a baby is overtired, they may exhibit clear signs such as irritability and difficulty falling asleep. They show late tired signs and become fussy or cry.

On the other hand, an undertired baby may not show as many signs of being, and it can be more challenging for parents to spot.

As a result, parents focus more on avoiding overtiredness and may not consider the possibility of their baby being undertired.

But undertiredness can play a big role in your baby's sleep. Especially when they get older. As your little one approaches toddlerhood, undertiredness becomes one of the main causes of sleep problems.

Undertiredness is definitely a thing in older babies and toddlers!

Related Article: Baby Sleepy Cues - The Secret To Recognizing A Tired Baby

Common Sleep Problems Associated With Undertiredness

Here are some common sleep problems that may be associated with undertiredness in babies:

Frequent wakings: Night sleep will get increasingly interrupted. An undertired baby may wake more frequently because they are not getting enough deep sleep to make it through the night without waking. Sleep pressure is not high enough, so whenever they enter light sleep, or their sleep cycle ends, they wake.

Short naps: If your baby is not tired enough, they may only have a short nap. Short naps are especially a thing for young babies. Sleep pressure is not high enough, and an undertired baby may not sleep as long as you want them to.

Split nights: Besides night wakings, undertiredness can have other not very pleasant effects on nighttime sleep. For example, your baby wakes in the middle of the night and is ready to play. They stay up all happy and smiles for hours while you can barely keep one eye half open.

False starts: False starts are another common sleep problem resulting from an undertired baby. You then deal with a baby waking shortly after bedtime. In many cases, they think they had a nap! The audacity…

Fighting naps and bedtime: You will experience nap and bedtime battles, especially with older babies and toddlers. Life has just become super interesting, and when they are not tired, there is no way they are just simply giving in to sleep.

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Typical Signs of an Undertired Baby

Difficulty falling asleep: An undertired baby will have trouble falling asleep because they are simply not tired enough to fall asleep. It can take up to an hour to get an overtired baby to sleep.

Happy in the beginning, frustrated in the end: Settling an undertired baby usually starts out well. They are happy and brabble, stand up or sit up. But they will start to get frustrated the longer it takes for them to fall asleep.

They barely show tired signs: Undertired babies show barely tired signs. They maybe scratch their head or pull their ears once and bother parents are on spot with diaper and pajamas, ready to start the bedtime routine.

They need excessive help to fall asleep: Rocking, nursing, shushing, jumping on the yoga ball. You have tried EVERYTHING, just name it. Undertired babies need a lot of help to fall asleep.

They stall bedtime: Toddlers are the experts on stalling bedtime. There is not one idea they will miss. They are hungry, thirsty, need to pee, or have something important to tell you that they still need to come up with.

How to Avoid Undertiredness in Babies and Toddlers

Check your wake windows: An age-appropriate awake time between naps is important to prevent undertiredness. A sleep schedule and wake windows are very helpful for younger babies. If you have a toddler, a sleep schedule is less relevant. Instead, watch for sleepy signs.

Avoid Too much daytime sleep: No one wants to wake their baby from a nap. But sometimes, it is just necessary for the greater good. Make sure your little one does not sleep too much during the day. Otherwise, they will compensate for nighttime sleep with daytime naps. In the worst case, their sleep pattern will shift, and you will end up with constant early morning wakes.

Have one long last wake window: Once your baby drops the afternoon nap, the last awake window becomes the most important one. Make sure it is the longest of the day and have bedtime according to it.

Learn about your baby's individual sleep needs: While there are general guidelines on how much sleep babies need at different ages, sleep needs still differ from baby to baby. There are also low-sleep need babies that need much less sleep than the nor and are still totally fine. Observe your baby's sleeping behavior and write down how many hours they sleep at night to determine their overall sleep needs in 24 hours.

Related Article: Low Sleep Needs Babies & Toddlers - How Much Sleep Your Child Really Needs

Accept & respect your baby's cues: You cannot force tiredness. A baby that is not tired will not sleep just like you wouldn't. I love a sleep schedule, but it is supposed to be a guide and not the bible. Your child is not exposed to the same amount of stimulation every day. Don't stress too much about the clock. Your baby doesn't have to be sleeping at 8 PM sharp. Trust their body to show you when they are truly tired.

Related Article: How To Survive The 4 Month Sleep Regression With An Actual SMILE

Tips for Settling an Undertired Baby

The 20-minute rule: If you cannot get your baby to sleep within 20-30 minutes, stop the whole process. It will just stress you out. You can try again in 15-20 minutes.

Create a sleep-inducing environment: The right environment will help your baby settle more easily to sleep. Use white noise to mask all outside noises and black-out curtains to keep it dark.

Create positive sleep associations: When nap time and bedtime have become a battle for some time, children will automatically resist sleeping because they have created negative associations with it. Revert their feelings about bedtime by making your bedtime routine a playful experience. Include a lot of cuddles and play. Dedicate your whole attention and time to the process, so it becomes something they really enjoy doing with you.


It is important for parents to pay attention to their baby's sleep patterns and behavior and to take the right steps to ensure that their little one is getting enough rest. But being mindful of your baby's individual sleep needs is part of that.
Overtiredness may be famous, but undertiredness is an equally strong opponent that will keep you and your baby awake.