The thing keeping baby from sleeping: signs your child is overtired
Updated: Aug 30
Being tired is a good thing, assuming it comes at bedtime, but overtiredness is another beast altogether. For anybody confused about the terminology, yes, there is a big difference between being tired and being overtired.
Difference Between Tired and Overtired
Being tired is a sign that our bodies are ready to do some maintenance work on our muscles and our brains, that we’ve gotten a decent amount of exercise, and we’re not ridiculously stressed about anything. In short, being tired at bedtime means we’re right on schedule.
Overtiredness means you are at a point of exhaustion. For adults, it can leave you irritable, lethargic, a little slow in the head, and craving high-fat, high-carbohydrate snacks, as your body looks for a quick fix for its depleted energy stores.
Children and infants suffering from overtiredness manifest their symptoms in different ways and often result in a "bad sleeper."
Signs of Overtiredness
The truly cruel joke that mother nature plays on children, (and their poor, exhausted parents) is that being overtired tends to manifest symptoms in ways that exacerbate the problem. That’s right. It’s one of the few examples where nature really doesn’t do its thing very efficiently.
Kids who are exhausted tend to have:
frequent night wakings
early wake ups
excessive crying or extreme giddiness
hyperactivity, restlessness and fidgety
short fuses, and prone to meltdowns and tantrums
inability to play independently
lack of appetite
Why Overtiredness Is Easily Missed
So how does this nasty little spiral get going in the first place?
Typically, what I run into as a sleep consultant, are parents who have allowed their child a little freedom to sleep when they seem tired. After all, what better to gauge a child’s bedtime than by when they seem to be ready for bed, yeah?
And that is a big, bad mistake.
First of all, kids don’t display signs of fatigue the same way adults do. We associate sleepiness with our bodies slowing down, easing off the gas and getting us ready for a snooze.
These signs can be visible in kids, but they’re often mixed in with some conflicting signals, or absent altogether. Kids typically don’t look forward to sleep the way adults do. We adults embrace the ritual of brushing our teeth, getting into some comfy night clothes and crawling into our big, comfortable bed. (Just talking about it makes me want to take a nap right now.)
But kids don’t usually see it this way. They’re more concerned with the good times that they’re going to miss while they’re in bed. In their minds, the world is going on without them while they’re in bed, and they’re crazy curious about what they’re missing.
As such, they tend to want to push sleep away as much as possible, and with all of that energy they’re packing, they can really push it pretty far. Toddlers need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep in a given 24 hour period. Assuming your little one sacks out for 10 hours at night, (and that’s a big assumption) that means she needs another two to four hours of naps during the day.
Do you think she’d go down for those willingly? When’s the last time you saw your toddler voluntarily put on her PJs, brush her teeth, and say, “Well, I think I’ll take a little nap.”
Importance of Enough Sleep
So many of us have been going without proper sleep for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to function like we’re supposed to. When it comes to your kids, there are much bigger issues than just not functioning at peak performance levels. Read that list again.
So it’s a big deal, really it is, when your child doesn’t get enough shut-eye, and as I’ve pointed out, it’s not going to remedy itself. You might get a night here and there when their exhaustion catches up with them and they sleep for longer than usual, but without consistent, regular sleep, they’re going to experience these symptoms over and over.
Overtired versus undertired is just one piece of that puzzle that can get your baby sleeping well. If your little one has difficulty sleeping, help is here for you right now. My customized plans put all those puzzle pieces into place so that we can see results in as little as 3 days! Click to book your free discovery call with me to get started.