I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Entries in overtired (6)


Ask Malia: Three Quick Questions From Across The Pond

Dear Malia,

We live in a small town in England and it is very difficult to receive sleep or lactation advice out here. Though everyone here is super nice and helpful, I would like more professional advice.

Liam is our first child so it is all new for us! He is breastfeed and is not sleeping through the night yet, which is fine. I do not want to push him, and we are planning to start him solids at six months.

The issue is, he naturally gets up at 8 a.m., so our day starts later than all the sample sleep schedules I see out there. I try to fit in three naps a day but by the time of the third nap, he might as well go down for the night.

Here are my questions. I hope you have time to help!

1. For a five-month-old, is it better to have two shorts naps ex (9:30 – 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.) then bedtime at 5.30 p.m. OR three shorter naps ex (9:00 – 10:00 a.m., 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., and 5 – 5:30 p.m.) then sleep at 7:30 p.m.?

I know it seems really similar but I find if he sleeps at 5:30 p.m. sometimes he will just sleep through the night, he doesn't want to get up!  So far either way, he gets up around 7 or 8 a.m.

Most children his age have three naps per day, one in the a.m., one after lunch, and short nap (30-40 min) around dinnertime. I would lean toward maintaining a three-nap routine if possible. If he seems extra tired, ill, or like he need the extra sleep on a particular day, you can always put him down at 5:30 p.m. But you run the risk of having him start to wake up far too early if you put him down at 5:30 p.m. every night.

2. I currently am still rocking him to sleep but I really like your idea of holding him for 20 -25 mins, then shaving two mins per day. It’s the best idea I found so far as I do not want to try CIO. But generally I only need to rock/shush him for about five minutes and then he will fall asleep. Does this mean he is overtired?

No, it does not necessarily mean he is overtired (though he may well be). It means this process should be easy and quick for you! Just make sure you stay with him in his room until he is in a deep sleep for the first few days, which takes about 20 minutes.

3. I try to let him have a nap in his cot once or  twice a day, for about 30 - 45 mins. He will naturally wake up. But once a day, I will hold him so he will nap longer and sometimes if I let him, he can nap for three hours. So then I try to wake up him but, if I try to wake him up around two hours, he's mad! Is this because he is in deep sleep or he is overtired?

If his other naps are only 30-45 minutes long, he may not be getting enoug naptime in. So he may indeed be overtired, which can result in the crying when he wakes up. I would begin trying to encourage longer naps in his cot. One way to do this is to gently increase the amount of time he is awake before naps by 10 to 15 minutes per day. At nearly six months old, he may be able to stay awake for 2-3 hours between naps. Many times, babies need a shorter activity period in the morning but can stay awake longer midday. So you could try having him awake by 8, nap 1 by 10, nap 2 by 2, and a brief 3rd nap around 5:30 or 6 p.m.

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Great Expectations: Thinking Your Way to Bedtime Success

In my blog posts and sleep articles, I often write about things parents can do to help kids sleep, from serving smarter snacks to picking the right bedtime to reading certain books.

But sometimes, you can do all the right things and still fail. That's because whether your bedtime routine succeeds or fails is only partially based on what you doyour real power lies in your mindset. 

Yep—bedtime success starts with the way you think. When carrying out your child’s bedtime routine, your attitude and demeanor are more important than you might realize. If you’re positive your child will never go to sleep easily, you can bet he won’t. If you’re certain that trying to make a change is pointless, it will be. If you’re not 100 percent, in-your-gut committed to breaking an overtired cycle and getting your child to bed earlier, she’ll sense that she’s only a tantrum away from breaking you. Well hello there, mega-tantrum.

 The thing is, unless your child sleeps in a hall of mirrors, you can’t watch yourself and observe the signals you’re sending during bedtime, but your child can—and does. So if you’ve established an appropriate bedtime and created a solid bedtime routine and your child still has trouble drifting off to dreamland, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you behaving as if you expect your child to go to sleep?
  • Have you created a loving, enjoyable bedtime experience for your child, one that isn’t rushed or half-hearted?
  • Are you sidestepping your child’s stall tactics and power plays by simply carrying on the routine in a friendly, supportive manner?
  • Is everyone in your household supportive of your child’s bedtime and her need for sleep, or are older children or your spouse disappointed that your child has to go to bed? (When this is the case, babies and young children quickly pick up on the idea that bedtime means missing out on late night “fun,” and resist going to sleep.)
  • Are you 100 percent sure that your routine is as consistent as possible, with the same elements in the same order each night?

More than one or two "no" answers? Your child's bedtime is going to be a struggle, without a doubt. And it certainly isn't your child's fault.

Children take their cues from you. So if bedtime is a challenge, steal a play from martial arts masters by “thinking through the obstacle.” (Martial artists use this technique to split boards and concrete by shifting their focus from the obstacle itself to the point just beyond the obstacle. That point becomes their target. Splitting the board is just a tiny thing they have to do first.)

“Think through” this obstacle by acting as though a successful bedtime is a foregone conclusion, and it will be. If your actions and demeanor demonstrate that you are wholly committed to bedtime and supportive of healthy sleep, your bedtime efforts will be successful. Hi-yah!


Ask Malia: Baby Won't Nap At Daycare

My 6-month-old son slept well until he started daycare two months ago. He goes to an in-home daycare with about six other kids, and he’s there all day four days a week. The problem is that the daycare provider says she can’t get him to nap. She says he’ll zonk out in the swing for about 20 minutes in the late morning, but then it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll sleep the rest of the day. The daycare provider says she can sometimes rock him to sleep in the afternoon, but he won’t stay asleep once she puts him down. By the time we pick him up at 4:30 he’s a mess, and he’s started waking up screaming at night (something he never did before). Please help us get our good sleeper back.



Hi Jason,

As you’re learning firsthand, quality naps are essential to healthy nighttime rest. Many parents complain that their children don’t nap at daycare, and this sets them up for a cranky evening and poor sleep at night.

If your child is having trouble napping at daycare (or taking short, forty-five-minute naps), look at the following common daycare nap-disruptors:

Napping too late

Many young babies who still take multiple naps are ready for their first morning nap within two hours of getting up. This means your child is probably ready for his first nap soon after arriving at daycare. If he’s being kept awake too long before that first nap, overtiredness will make sleep difficult.

Poor sleep environment

If your daycare provider is having trouble getting your child to nap, examine the sleeping space. Sleep environment—a sleeping space that’s dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable—is just as important at naptime as it is at bedtime. Is the space where your child naps at daycare quiet, dim, and calm, or loud and bright? Is the bed comfortable? Some kids will nap without problems in noisy, bright environments, but most need a quieter, darker space.

Lack of sleep associations

Sleep cues to the rescue! (See Ready, Set, Sleep for more information about sleep cues.) The sleep cues that help your child fall asleep at bedtime can also be used at naptime. They’re particularly helpful in situations where your child is sleeping away from home, because they create a soothing sense of familiarity that helps your child feel safe and relaxed. Your child’s sleep cues—swaddling wrap, sleep sack, blanket, or special stuffed animal—should accompany him to daycare for naps.

At the end of the day (especially at the end of the day) childcare exists to help your life run more smoothly. A daycare that leaves you with nighttime problems may not be the best fit for your family. Childcare workers are extremely busy, and some may not be willing or able to take the time or make the changes necessary to accommodate a child who needs a little more soothing at naptime. If your daycare provider isn’t able to prioritize your child’s naps, consider finding a different daycare. Naps are important to your child’s growth and development, and vital to his healthy nighttime rest. You wouldn’t allow a daycare provider to feed your child unhealthy junk food all day, so don’t allow a “junk” nap schedule either.

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Suprising Ways Overtiredness Hurts Kids

Get within two feet of a young child having a meltdown, and you’re sure to hear the word “tired” tossed around: “He’s really tired today. We stayed up late last night. He missed his nap. He’s just tired.”

But tantrums are just the tip of the tiredness iceberg. We know that overtiredness brings on crankiness and meltdowns in our kids. But did you know that overtiredness isn’t just a precursor to a foul mood? According to new research, overtiredness plays a role in a host of serious health problems, from ADHD to diabetes. It hurts kids academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. And sleep doctors—at least, the ones I interview for my magazine articles on sleep—say that chronic overtiredness is rampant among today’s kids.

That’s bad news for our children. Here are some surprising side effects of overtiredness—and five good reasons to help your kids get the sleep they need:

School Struggles

The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleep deprivation in children is associated with poor school performance and lowered test scores.

Weighty Matters

According to new research, sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity two-fold in children and adults and is associated with excess body weight in both kids and teens.   

ADHD Imposter

Overtiredness can masquerade in a host of ADHD-like symptoms, and even lead to “faux ADHD,” a condition characterized by behavior problems and learning difficulties.

Too Tired, Too Wired

When kids are awake too long, an overbalance of adrenaline makes it difficult to reach and maintain deep, restorative sleep, so overtired kids have a harder time falling and staying asleep.

Fidgety Legs

Overtiredness worsens the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, a condition affecting 1.5 million children and adolescents.


For more surprising facts about how overtiredness affects children, check out my article “Desperately Seeking Sleep: Ten Surprising Ways Overtiredness Hurts Kids” in this month’s Western New York Family Magazine.

How much sleep does your little one need to stay out of overtired territory? These guidelines from Web MD are a good reference.


Ask Malia: Sleep Sleuthing and The Case of the Three-Hour Nap

Sometimes, figuring out a sleep problem feels a bit like detective work. Recently, the mom of a toddler contacted me for help getting rid of her son's pacifier, which she believed was causing him to wake during the night. But when we looked into the issue, we discovered that the pacifier wasn't the real problem. Read on...

Hi Malia,

My son is 17 months old, and he started sleeping through the night around 13 months. Within the last month, he’s been waking up about 2 am (6 hours after his bedtime.) Sometimes it seems as if he's in the middle of a dream; he will stand up in his crib and cry an unusual cry. Depending on how tired I am, I'll bring him in bed with me, which sometimes works and other times he just plays with my face. We have not taken away his pacifier yet, which is our New Years resolution, as it seems to be giving him more grief than pleasure lately. He needs it to fall asleep, but he'll take it out sometime during his sleep and when he wakes up in the night to put it back in, he can't find it. He never uses it during his waking hours. What is your recommendation on weaning him off the pacifier?

He naps between 1-3 hours during the day and sleeps about 11 hours at night. We kept the pacifier around this long because it helped him sleep before, but now with another baby due in May, I would like him away from this habit before it comes really hard!


Hi Beth,

Most kids are overtired, so when I'm looking for a reason for nighttime wakings I consider overtiredness first. However, the patterns he's displaying with his night wakings don't suggest that he's overtired, they suggests that he's undertired.

And I don’t think the pacifier is the problem. You can get rid of it if you choose, but I doubt that doing so will stop his nighttime wakings right now.

The thing that I'm honing in on is his naptime: you said he sleeps between 1 and 3 hours. That's a big variation in nap length. At this age, length and quality of nap can be a big factor in nighttime sleep, and it's important for naps to be consistent. That sometimes means waking your child from his nap to make sure he doesn't sleep too long.

Have you noticed a difference in the quality of his nighttime sleep when he takes a 3 hour nap? It's rare for a child to regularly take a 3 hour nap without it affecting their nighttime sleep. 3 hours is a very long nap, and in many cases, it's just too much daytime sleep.

If he's doing well on 11 hours of sleep at night, I would keep his bedtime and wake-up time the same. What I recommend is trying to keep his naptime consistent and waking him after 2 hours maximum.

After a few days of that, if he's still waking at night, I would reduce the nap to 1.5 hours.

The key is to encourage a nap that's restorative but not overly long, and to keep it very consistent.

It sounds like you're on the right track in many areas, so once you get the timing figured out, I think things will smooth out with his nighttime sleep.

Lo and behold, Beth did notice a connection between her son's 3 hour naps and his night wakings, and they're on the way to better sleep. Another sleep sleuthing case, solved.