How Hormones Can Help or Hinder Your Little One's Sleep.

Posted on

How Hormones can help or Hinder Your Little One's Sleep


Overtiredness in your little one can turn bedtime, naps and getting them to sleep into a battle!

“ Surely if my baby or toddler is overtired falling asleep will be seamless and they’ll sleep really well, right?  Wrong!”

Overtiredness does to your little one what coffee does for you when your tired!  It keeps you going and awake but it doesn't stop the tiredness and if you have coffee too close to bedtime it makes it super hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

“Don't let your baby get overtired it will make getting sleep much harder!”

Experts says this to often don't they but do you know the reasons why an overtired baby struggles so much? You would think that the more tired a baby is the easier it would be to get them sleeping but as I'm sure you've realised this is sooo not the case.

They fuss and cry going off to sleep often needing a LOT of help from you and then when you finally get them sleeping they toss and turn, waking  frequently or earlier than you’re anticipating sometimes unhappy, sometimes they seem revived after that cat nap but ultimately you know in your gut they  just haven't had enough sleep.

Why does this happen though? What causes the sleep resistance and the bedtime, fall asleep battle?


When  your baby hasn't napped or  stays awake longer than they ideally should hormones kick in to help your baby’s body  cope with being awake and alert longer than perhaps they should.


Did you know that Hormones can help or hinder your little ones sleep?

Hormone in your little ones body can play a part  and have an impact on the quality and quantity of sleep your baby needs. When timed correctly hormones releases in your babies body  can either aid the winding down process.

like the hormone melatonin does


they can make  the process of falling and staying asleep more difficult like cortisol  & adrenalin can do.

Our little ones  can get tired quite quickly  and often if we don't recognise or notice those tired cues or signals or little ones display and get them to sleep at the ideal time they can get overtired and restless.

When your little one has stayed awake past the ideal period of time  for their age and stage of development (often refered to as an awake window) and is not given the opportunity to rest/sleep.  The brain kicks into survival mode and releases a selection of hormones to give energy to your little ones body to keep them going. Those hormones include Cortisol and adrenaline…..

I’m sure  they're have  been times when you've looked at your toddler or your baby  and thought ‘oh they're getting tired’ and you decide to finish whatever chore it is your doing and then to go settle them.

Only to discover minutes later when your ready  to settle them, they seem, to be full of beans and energy chatting/ babbling away insanely or running around excited?....A moment ago they seemd tired and  ready for nap but now they have a second wind and are on fine form some little ones will seem almost hyper.

When you initially noticed  your little one was tired they genuinely were but having missed the window of opportunity (which can be small) to settle them they've then gotten “overtired”. Their body has recognised that ideally it should be at rest and sleeping but it's not and so your little ones brain kicks into survival mode and releases hormones That act like coffee to your little ones system.

Motherhoo (1)

Coffee is great at keeping you awake when your tired,  But what it doesn't do is stop the tired feeling you have. And cortisol and adrenaline do the same thing for your baby.

This is why your baby fights sleep so much, struggles to nod off and then has a hard time staying asleep, often waking every few hours  ( or every 20/30/45 mins) and then finally waking for the day at 5.30 am ( noooooo!)

Also bear in mind that when cortisol is released not only does it stay in your baby's body for hours sometimes even till the next day but also inhibits the release of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone released in your baby's body ( and yours as its gets darker in the evenings) making you feel sleepy. Melatonin doesn't make you sleep but it help to  make you sleepy. So if you are already tired and you have a routine to help you wind down for bed that includes dim lighting or darkness. Tiredness combined with the sleepy hormone makes getting to sleep a lot easier.

So what can you do to prevent the hormones that make sleep difficult

  1. Familiarise yourself with your little ones awake window ( the ideal period of time to be awake before needing a nap) Click here to see a chart with the average times.

  2. Familiarise yourself with your little ones early tired signals. Crying and yawning are often later signs of tiredness so  lookout for earlier cues your baby may show such as like blank staring or sudden loss of interest in an activity they found highly amusing a moment ago, pulling their ears or rubbing eyes are a few signals your LO may display ( keeping a diary will help you)

  3. When you see those early sleep cues start the wind down to sleep process asap to prevent Cortisol release and encourage melatonin instead.

  4. If you miss the window and see a second wind do an activity or play a game that will get rid of the extra energy. With a baby encourage physical play crawling or walking with a toddler, get them running around outside or jumping on the bed/trampet. Then calm them help them wind down and fall asleep.




The only thing that gets rid of overtiredness is sleep. So even if you  need to help or assist your baby to sleep initially get them the rest they need and then work on avoiding overtiredness in future.

I hope this helped you understand overtiredness a little better. If you have any questions or would like to become a welcomed member of the soundly sleeping community you are welcome to join our supportive network of mums just click here to join us

tHinking about ‘maybe’Sleep training your baby....._