How Do I Know if My Child Is Overtired?

As your child gets older and more active, it may be harder to figure out if they are getting the sleep they need each day.  Even if you look at average sleep requirements for their age, there are variations, and your child may need more or less than the average.  Here are some signs that your child may be overtired:

Falls asleep in the car – If your child falls asleep in the car on short car rides, they are probably sleep deprived.  That vibration and movement is soothing and apt to put an already tired person to sleep.

Falls asleep in strange places – So by strange, I mean in high chairs, on the floor playing, or anywhere else where you were not trying to get your child to nap.  (That is my daughter below!)

Does this look like your child?

Does this look like your child?

Cranky in the late afternoon – If your child is consistently cranky leading up to dinner time, chances are they are overtired.  If they are napping, their naps are probably too short, and if they are not napping, they probably still should be.

Does not sleep well at night (or takes short naps)- I know, you would think if your child was so tired and not sleeping well during the day, they’d make up for it at night, but that is not the case.  Overtired children sleep worse and it can become a vicious cycle if nothing is done about it.

It takes much longer (or much less) than 10 – 20 minutes for your child to fall asleep at bedtime – It should take on average 10 – 20 minutes for everyone to fall asleep at night (and for naps).  If it takes a lot longer or a lot shorter, chances are your child is overtired.  (There is a chance if it takes a long time that they are not tired enough, but more often than not, I see children who are overtired taking a long time).

Your child is less than 3 or 4 and is no longer napping, or less than 15 – 18 months and only taking one nap – On average, children drop to one nap at age 15 – 18 months, and drop to no naps around 3 or 4 years old.  While there are exceptions, if you are at all questioning if your child is sleeping enough and these are true, they probably do need more sleep.

Does not seem well rested in the morning or is hard to wake up – If you have to wake your child in the morning and it is very hard to wake them up, chances are they did not get enough sleep the night before.  If your child wakes on their own, but does not seem well rested, the same is true.

Have you seen other signs that your child is overtired?  Feel free to share them with me!

2 Thoughts on “How Do I Know if My Child Is Overtired?

  1. This is a great list. I will share it.

  2. I had a flash back to my daughter not sleeping in the middle of the night. I used to take her for car rides to get her to sleep. At the time, I didn’t know it was a medicated cream that was keeping her awake. I still feel pain when I think of that – it’s what finally made me not trust doctors and seek out naturopaths. I know not quite the same topic but reading this passage brought back painful memories. I wish you were there to catch – three years that kid could not sleep. I’m still angry. Stupid doctors.

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