How to Spot an Overtired Baby

Published: 21st December 2009
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It may seem obvious, but were you aware that there is an optimum window of opportunity for getting your baby or toddler to sleep? If you do not time this correctly then there is a good chance that your child will not sleep as well or as long.

At the start of my parenting journey, I was completely ignorant of this fact. In fact, I was of the belief that the more my exhausted my little one was, the better he would sleep. Unluckily for me, I was mistaken. At some point I started my research and realised that I could not have been more wrong.

Can I ask you something? Do you remember all those times when your toddler has been full of beans when they should have been really tired, and you have wondered why? Well against all common sense, here's the answer. What you are witnessing is actually a reaction to overtiredness and your toddler is using the hormone adrenaline to stimulate him or herself.

Believe me, if your little one is hyperactive, cranky and is fussing more than usual, they are probably overtired. If it has got to this stage, it will be much harder to get your baby or toddler to sleep and they are likely to sleep more poorly. Prevention is far better than cure. If you can stop them getting overtired you will reap the benefits. By recognising the early behaviours that indicate tiredness, you will have a much better chance of getting your little one to sleep at the optimal time.

Here are some things to look for:

Lower Activity levels
Moving more slowly
Less vocal
Reduced sucking
Chilled out and more tranquil
Withdrawn and disengaged from environment
Lack of focus in the eyes
Eyelids drooping
Occasional yawning

I understand though that there will be times when your child seems to be tired all the time. If this happens, the best thing you can do is pay attention to how long your child has been awake. The following information is only a guideline but may help you determine when your baby needs to sleep:

0-4 month olds can take about 1-2 hours of wakefulness before needing to sleep.
5-7 Month old babies can last for about 2 hours
8-12 month old do best staying up for around 3 hours at a time.

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