Newborn Sleep: Undertired versus Overtired and How to Tell the Difference

by | Feb 15, 2024

For new parents, deciphering the sleep needs of a newborn can be a delicate balance between avoiding overtiredness and undertiredness. It’s essential to watch your baby’s wake windows (which are times of wakefulness in between sleep) and sleepy cues to pinpoint their optimal sleep times. The first step in this process is learning what signs to look for!

Early versus Late Sleepy Cues

Newborn babies generally have a wake windows  of 45-90 minutes. By two weeks old, they might begin an eat, play, sleep pattern in each wake window.

During the “play” segment, watch for early tired signs like slower movements, reduced activity, decreased feeding vigor, staring, disengagement, finger sucking, erratic limb movements, facial grimacing, and wriggling. These are early tired signs and indicate that your baby may be ready for a nap.

Parents often look for tired signs such as yawning and eye rubbing. These signs are often late tired signs that may only appear once your baby is overtired. (Also, babies younger than 8-12 weeks, may not yet have the ability to rub their eyes!)

Combine Clock Watching and Baby Watching

To avoid overtiredness, combine clock watching with observing your baby’s behaviour and cues. If you haven’t seen any sleepy cues and your baby has been awake for an appropriate amount of time, initiate your wind-down routine and prepare them for a nap.

See section below for average wake windows by month.

How Much Sleep Should My Newborn Be Getting?

Every newborn is different, but here is a general guideline for average sleep needs for an infant in the first few months of life:

  • Month 1: 45-60 minute wake windows, 4-6 naps, 18-20 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period
  • Month 2: 60-75 minute wake windows, 3-5 naps, 15-18 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period
  • Month 3: 75-90 minute wake windows, 3-4 naps, 14-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period

Conclusion

Finding the perfect balance of sleep time and wakefulness can be particularly tricky in the newborn stage. By being attentive to your baby’s wake windows and recognizing early versus late sleepy cues, you can help prevent overtiredness and ensure they get the rest they need. 

Remember, every baby is unique, so it’s important to adapt these guidelines to your baby’s individual needs and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

For additional tips and support on newborn sleep, don’t hesitate to reach out or explore the Newborn Sleep Support packages available.

You may also like:
Surviving the Sleep Regression Rollercoaster
Surviving and Thriving Through the 4 Month Sleep Regression

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Newborn sleep: Is your baby overtired or undertired? And how to tell the difference!
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