How To Know If My Child Is Overtired & What To Do

picture of a baby sucking on its pacifier and rubbing it's eyes and is clearly overtired
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

Have you ever been exhausted, but you powered through and once your head hit the pillow, you couldn’t sleep? Overtiredness is to blame. This same thing happens with our children.

So if we know our child is tired, but we miss the window to get them down, they move into an overtired state. Overtiredness makes it more difficult for our kiddos to fall asleep and stay asleep.

How To Prevent Overtiredness

To prevent overtiredness, watch for sleepy cues and get your child down for sleep.

Sleepy cues include: yawning, rubbing eyes, pulling on ears, spacing out, slowing down and stopping play.

What Happens If We Miss Sleepy Cues

Missing sleepy cues happen to even the most attuned parents! While we want to be able to watch our children 100% of the time, sometimes we will miss the cues.

If we miss those sleepy cues or if our child has had a really active day, becoming overtired can happen quicker than we expected. Or if your child isn’t meeting their sleep needs regularly, they will be overtired much of the time.

When children become overtired, the body goes into a state of fight or flight. When this happens, stimulating hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline are released. As you may have seen, when our little ones go down overtired, our babies and toddler can have:

  • More difficulty settling to sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Frequent night wakings
  • Shorter naps
  • Earlier morning wake ups

All things that we don’t want for our children or for us! But you know what? YOU’RE HUMAN!

Overtired Signs

Newborn Overtired Signs

Overtired newborns will:

  • Arch their back
  • Become rigid
  • Make fists
  • Hysterical crying

Babies, Toddlers & Big Kids


One minute, your sweet cherub is playing normally. All of a sudden, your child turns into the Energizer Bunny! Generally this looks like running around the house, acting silly, and jumping off the furniture may sound familiar. As entertaining as this can be, it is usually a sign that your child is overtired.


I don’t know about you, but when I’m overtired, just feed me and tell me I’m pretty! My emotional regulation is low and it is much easier for me to have big emotions! The same thing goes for our babies, toddlers and big kids.

Mood swings and big reactions are normal in the toddler stage. Crankiness, tears and meltdowns before a nap or if bedtime is coming close, is normally a sign of being overtired.


While parents love a good snuggle, clinginess could be a sign that your little one is overtired.


Obviously, some of us are naturally more clumsy than others! But, if your child starts dropping things or tripping over their own feet more than usual, this may be a sign of overtiredness.

What To Do If Your Child Is Overtired

Overtired Newborn & Young Baby Tips

For our littlest loves, it can be really easy to miss their tired cues and they can quickly become overtired. Therefore, they’ll likely need a little time to regulate with your help and then you can try to encourage sleep.

If your newborn is overtired, try this for calming and soothing. Firstly, bring your baby into their nursery, turn off all the lights and turn up the sound machine. Then snuggle your little one skin-to-skin, while taking deep breaths. Your baby should mimic your calm breathing and calm themselves, making it easier to get an overtired newborn to sleep.

Overtired Baby, Toddler & Big Kid Tips

Shorten Routine

Expedited your little one’s bedtime routine and get them down for sleep as soon as you can.

Give Time To Settle

If your little one is upset and having difficulty falling asleep, try to give a little time and space. This will help your child to settle into sleep independently if your child is sleep trained.

Provide Assistance

If your child isn’t sleep trained, do whatever you normally do to put your child to sleep. However, it may take longer for your child to settle while they work through those overtired hormones that are surging through their body

Quiet Time

If it is too early for bed and your child is no longer napping, try a little quiet time. This can be independent, quiet play in their room; or reading/watching a quiet movie together. This will help your little one to get some rest and downtime, making it easier to make it to bedtime.

Early Bedtime For Overtired Baby, Toddler or Big Kid

If you are wondering how to break the cycle of overtiredness, an early bedtime can be the answer. Certainly move sleepytime earlier if your child is showing signs of being overtired or if they skipped or had short naps. The best way to help our children settle easier and make up for lost sleep is with an earlier bedtime. The sleep in the beginning part of the night is super restorative. An early bedtime can help your child to not be as overtired the next day.

So, if you find that your child is chronically overtired because they aren’t sleeping well at night and/or taking quality naps, I recommend that you start devising a plan on how you can teach your child to be a healthy sleeper. Schedule a discovery call today and let’s talk about how our team can help your entire family to be happy and well-rested!

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