Signs That Your Child Is Overtired

There are a number of ways to tell whether your child is overtired. Spotting them could mean the difference between happiness and harmony, and screaming temper tantrums and meltdowns that will frazzle everyone’s nerves – including your child’s.

Common Sense

The first thing to consider is how much sleep your child is getting. If they are not getting ten to eleven hours per night, they are probably suffering from sleep deprivation. This can cause them to be tired – acting cranky, being generally sluggish and not in the mood for anything, not even food. They are literally too tired to eat. They might become clingy and start to whine or complain.

If you notice the following, beware of overtiredness:

  • Wanting to stay up late a lot
  • Frequent night wakings
  • Very early wake-ups
  • Lots of small naps through the day as they doze off for minutes at a time
  • Nightmares

These are all signs that an erratic sleep pattern is forming. They can also be signs that your child is not reaching what is termed the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is considered to be the most restorative and refreshing – particularly for the mind.

Even if your child is not actually sleeping, encourage them to rest in bed. A collection of favorite books on the nightstand (nothing too exciting) can help lull them to sleep.

Establish a sleep routine of pajamas, teeth brushing and so on. Don’t allow media in the bedroom, such as TV and/or DVD, and discourage these forms of entertainment (including video games) for at least an hour before bedtime so they are not overly stimulated.

Don’t let them eat or drink too much before bed. A light snack can help prevent them from waking up hungry. Too much liquid, however, might cause them to need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night – or worse still, wet the bed.

Other Signs to Watch Out For

Many children also exhibit emotional signs when they are overtired:

  • Crying, usually for no reason
  • Rowdy or over-energetic behavior
  • Having a “hair-trigger” – that is, being overly sensitive, or getting aggressive or angry over the least little thing
  • “Sundowning” – becoming agitated and hyper as the day ends, from around 4 to 7 PM
  • Defiance, saying no, being stubborn
  • Meltdowns
  • Tantrums

Children lacking sleep are overtired and therefore overly sensitive. If they don’t rest, things can quickly escalate out of control.

As a parent, the best thing you can do apart from spotting the warning signs is to impose structure and routine and try not to deviate from it. A set bedtime and wake-up time is crucial. Don’t let them wheedle you into staying up late too often.

At the weekends, try to stick to the same routine as you do during weekdays. It may be tough, but a similar schedule when you are on vacation can help, especially during the long summer holidays.

If the long days of summer might prevent your child from wanting to go to bed at their normal time, get some blackout curtains.

Don’t drag them to stores or other overly stimulating places in the afternoon. Encourage a short rest when they get home from school. Finally, try to find something they enjoy that will calm them down if they start to become agitated.