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Annette Faamausili, March 22 2023

The Curse Of The Second Wind

 Kids are amazingly resilient.

And it seems that the time they are at their most resilient is bedtime!

It feels like kids learn delaying tactics from a very young age and are not afraid to use these tactics when it is time to go to sleep.

Perilously, this procrastination can open the door for the dreaded second wind, making it virtually impossible to get your little one to sleep.

So, what causes the second wind and how can you stop it from impacting your child’s sleep routine?

Let’s answer those questions now.

What Is The Second Wind?

Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases, usually in response to stress. It is designed to activate the body’s fight-or-flight response. Therefore, cortisol can increase alertness, raise blood sugar levels, and provide the body with plenty of energy to deal with the stressor.

When a child is overtired, their body may produce higher levels of cortisol. As you can imagine, with all that energy pumping through their veins, it can lead to difficulty sleeping.

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day. Usually, the levels are higher in the morning and lower at night. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated at night due to overtiredness, it can interfere with a child's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

This causes the dreaded second wind where it feels like they turn into a little energizer bunny who may never sleep again!

Combatting The Second Wind

Overtiredness can be just as hard to deal with as under tiredness at bedtime. As we just learnt, cortisol can have a negative effect on your little one’s ability to fall asleep. Unfortunately, it can also tamper with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, so even if they manage to fall asleep after a second wind, they may struggle to stay asleep throughout the usual sleep cycle.

So, as you can see, keeping your baby or toddler up later than recommended can have dire consequences. Here are my best suggestions to avoid overtiredness (and the second wind) from occurring:

Take The Lead

Babies and toddlers find it hard to read their own sleep cues. They don’t necessarily feel the sleep pressure that we do as adults. This is especially true when their brains are firing from learning or practising new skills. This intense focus can distract them from connecting with sleep.

So, it is up to you to take the lead and read the sleep cues for them. That way, you can catch them during the window of being sleepy, but not yet overtired.

Don’t Wait Too Long

If you wait for your child to start showing tired signs before getting them ready to sleep, then you might accidentally miss your window. Some children don’t show tired signs at all or some show them when it’s already too late.

If you wait too long, then your baby or toddler could enter the overtired state without you realising it. This will make it incredibly hard to settle them. So, it’s much better to focus on set nap times and awake windows than trying to judge tiredness on a daily basis.

Checkout our hugely popular age specific nap guides for additional insight and tips into getting the right amount of awake time and day sleep for your child. 

Stick To The Routine

If your little one is having fun, then it can be tempting to let them stay up a bit longer. But, it is important to remember that sleep is just as important for their development as learning and playing.

While you can skip the odd day here and there for special occasions, as a rule, you should try and stick to your sleep routine as closely as possible. Even if your child doesn’t look particularly tired, still head to bed at their usual nap or sleep time.

Early Is Better Than Late

Heading up to bed early can have a positive impact on bedtime stalling tactics. Remember that your little ones don’t understand the concept of time yet, they will rely on you to tell them when it is time for bed. Going early leaves a buffer in case delaying tactics are employed. And even if they are employed, you’ll still have the opportunity to be asleep at the right time.

Whereas, if your child ends up going to bed later, you might find that they wake more during the night due to cortisol spikes. Overall, being early to bed creates more restorative sleep and reduces the risk of early rising.

Cursed By The Second Wind?

If your child is regularly overtired when trying to sleep, then you may have fallen into the second wind cycle. It can be really easy to do.

If you feel like your little one is in this space or you simply need some advice, book a FREE  no obligation call today to discuss how I can best support you on your journey to better sleep.   

Written by

Annette Faamausili

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