A Cortisol rush is the body’s natural defence mechanism when it has run out of energy and needs to keep going. As adults we have all experienced a cortisol rush: working all day and then going out all night. On your way home you think you will sleep for hours because you are exhausted. BUT when you get home you cannot sleep, you are wired and hyperactive. Then when you do finally fall asleep your sleep is restless, you wake constantly, you wake up early and you wake up tired!
Babies are no different!
Our bodies only have a certain period of time that it can stay awake. Then our body create melatonin in preparation for sleep. This is commonly known as the sleep window. If you aren’t asleep or falling asleep by the time you get to the end of your sleep window, your body produces Cortisol (the stress hormone) to give you a burst of energy so you can keep going.
When you see a burst of energy after tired signs, that’s a cortisol rush. Be warned: it can be very hard to get to sleep after this rush, especially for a baby who is unable to self-settle. Keeping your baby awake for 5 to 6 hours they will be near impossible to get to sleep, not to mention worsening those early morning wake ups!
If you keep your baby awake too long and miss that sleep window it can also cause early morning wake ups. The first sleep of the day is the most important in reducing this cortisol surge. Your baby’s first wake time should be it’s shortest of the day.
It is therefore essential that you understand your baby’s own tired signs, understand their sleep windows and get ensure they get sufficient daytime sleep (and the right bedtime). It can make all your sleep challenges a little easier.