Are you dealing with a firecracker?

This post is all about the super alert little ones. If you’re reading this, the chances are I’m describing your cheeky monkey. I’m boldly saying this because, alert babies and children are more likely to have difficulties with their sleep. And, that’s likely why you’re here, right?

No off-switch

Children with alert temperaments are the ones who are switched on to everything and are always on the go. Their little minds seem to go 100 miles an hour, processing everything around them, eyes darting about everywhere, minds blown! They’re easily distracted and probably don’t appear to have an off switch until they crash out with exhaustion. They just can’t sit still (changing times are fun and games, right?!) and always want to be involved.

You probably found, in the early days, trying to feed them in public became an impossible task without the compulsory muslin stylishly draped over their head. Or maybe you’re just venturing into this super fun part now. Boob on display 90% of the time, or you’re left trying to style-out the daily wrestle of squirming baby, bottle which is now cold and muslin which has seen the grubby floor at least 12 times this feed.

Wide awake toddler jumping on bed in pyjamas with star lights shining behind

You’d think, after the hustle and bustle of the outside world that sleeping at home would be a success. That seems logical, right? But our alert little ones have a super-talent for finding the smallest distraction and fixating on it. This bittersweet talent can result in overstimulation, difficulty settling and long-periods of laying awake, even when clearly tired.

Stars can’t shine without darkness

Projectors, mobiles over the cot, lullaby machines, noises outside in the street, night lights and even objects around the room. These are all things which a little one with an alert temperament can fixate on and can prevent/disrupt sleep. Even a sliver of light under the door/curtains, creating shadows can be enough to stimulate their little minds. If you look around their room at nap time and can see anything, chances are, their room isn’t dark enough. Any objects you see, books, toys, pictures, furnishings, can be distractions that busy their minds with wonder, excitement and temptation.

Children really do sleep best in total darkness. It’s what was natural to them when they were inside us, so why should things be any different just because of the novelty products marketed to us. Dream sheep, projectors and lullaby machines can have a place in bedtime routines to help bring on the sleep cues. But, I recommend turning them off when the lights go out. As for nightlights, these are really only needed if you tend to your child during the night (changing, feeds and medicine), then turned off when you leave the room again. If you use a nightlight, a red/amber one is best, as these are much less stimulating than white/coloured lights.

If you’ve used a nightlight from the early days, this may have already set a dependency. Children can unfortunately be ‘re-programmed’ to see darkness as unnatural and scary if they’ve been given nightlights/projectors from early on. This dependency on lights can be weaned off. You can gradually dim them, or safely place an object in front of the light to reduce the room brightness. With a much dimmer sleep environment, they’ll have less distractions in the room to focus on, allowing better rest for busy minds.

Your presence

Having you present in the room while they fall asleep, or room sharing can be a stimulant for them. Your alert little one can become frustrated by you being present but not interacting with them, especially if you’re trying to wean off rocking/cuddling/stroking to sleep or co-sleeping. If you’re sat out of their reach not paying them attention after one of these things has been removed, they’ll understandably struggle with this confusing change, and will likely protest.

It’s all fixable

Not all these things will keep all children awake all the time, but hopefully it’s a starting point for you. If you’ve identified your little one’s temperament as alert, start by looking at their sleep environment to assess what may be contributing to the trouble settling/resettling. Once you’ve established a healthy sleep environment, move onto recognising what it takes for them to settle. Removing yourself from the room could make all the difference in allowing them to fully relax.

More, more, more!

Alert children will often benefit from a little more sleep than the average child their age. This is because their minds and bodies are so active during their awake time that they understandably tire more easily. Don’t be in a hurry to drop their naps down to 3, 2, 1, gone! They may stick on more/longer naps than other children their age, but this is because your little firework is burning more power. They may even benefit from a nap up to the age of 4 years, while children with an easy-going temperament might drop theirs at 3 years.

Alert types typically develop quicker than the average child and can reach developmental milestones sooner. So, if your little one is rolling, walking, talking sooner than the average, it’s highly likely that you have an alert one on your hands. This is simply because they tend to process the things that they’re learning quicker. You’ll likely find alert temperaments doing well in sport, high energy careers and juggling lots of responsibilities.

Some people consider alert children to be more challenging, but it’s simply the case that the parent requires more knowledge in how best to deal with this temperament. It’s really a case of being aware of the alert traits and staying one step ahead, especially when it comes to sleep. They don’t often show the usual signs of tiredness, and can go from zero to meltdown in seconds, meaning they’re more susceptible to overtiredness.

What works for you

It does get easier. The more you can understand and communicate with each other, the less frustration there’ll be from both of you. Switch off your thinking of what ‘should’ be happening. Take advice from friends, family and Google with a pinch (or fist full) of salt, then make your own decisions. Many who are lovingly giving advice are often those with an easy-going child or will have never had your experiences. What works for one child may not work for another, especially when they’re of such different temperaments.


If you’re stuck in a rut with a little rocket and want to put the issue to bed, get in touch to see how I can help you get there.

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