Every parent-baby team will have sleep troubles every now and again. It just comes with the territory. But what happens when your little one goes beyond the point of being tired, turning into a crying, fussy, hyperactive mess?
Overtiredness occurs when a child is between the stages of tiredness and exhaustion.
The stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are produced, creating a “fight or flight” reaction in babies, causing them to not be able to sleep easily.
The best ways to prevent your baby from becoming overtired is to watch for their early warning signs, be aware of their sleep cycles (depending on their age), and have a bedtime routine in place to help her wind down at the end of the night.
But even with our best intentions and all our efforts, there will be times that our babies will get to the point of being overtired.
So, what exactly does that look like?
Not literally.... Read on!
Types of Carriers
Will Turn Face Away From Stimulation
The first thing you may notice is that she begins to act a bit out of the ordinary, and loses interest in things that she normally loves.
In younger babies, this typically comes in the form of turning away from the bottle or breast, not wanting to feed.
In older babies and toddlers, you will usually notice that they no longer want to play with any of their toys.
These reactions are due to the fact that your baby may be at her limit for stimulation during a particular awake period.
Babies and young children have the capability of becoming overstimulated, which is the result of too many experiences, activities, or sensations over a short period of time.
With everything your little one is constantly learning, it is understandable that she would become overstimulated, even more so the younger she is. Overstimulated babies and children get tired much more quickly, causing her to become overtired more easily.
Will Fuss or Whine More Than Usual
Before your little one has words to express her needs and feelings, she is only able to communicate via cries. So, to say that your baby will cry or become fussy when she is tired is a no-brainer.
However, the cries of an overtired child are different from regular tiredness. Oftentimes, overtiredness results in a baby or child that is inconsolable. Nothing you do will calm them down easily.
You may also notice that your baby, particularly if she is a toddler, will begin to whine more than usual.
It could be wordless whining, just seemingly unhappy with anything and everything around her, or it could be whining with words.
It is going to take a lot of patience and love on your part to calm the fussiness and get your little one to the point that she is receptive to sleep again.
Will Cling to Parents or Caretakers
Separation anxiety is a normal part of your baby’s development, but it can make bedtime unbearable.
Separation anxiety can occur in babies as early as 6 to 7 months of age, but usually peaks around 10 to 18 months.
If you notice that your baby is especially fussy, even more than normal, and fights you leaving at bedtime, she is likely beyond the point of regular tiredness.
Overtiredness can make everything seem much more amplified to your little one, which means that her separation anxiety will be even worse at bedtime.
Will Become Increasingly Wound Up
When some babies are past their sleepy point and getting to the beyond tired stage, they will actually begin to wind up and seem to suddenly get a “second wind”.
Do not be fooled; she is just overcompensating for her tiredness.
Many parents will mistake their child’s display of energy as a sign that they are not tired yet. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The longer you keep your baby up, even if she seems hyper and awake, the harder it will be for her to fall asleep.
The tell tale sign that my son has reached this stage is he climbs along the top of the couch, then starts grabbing my hair.
Every child is different...
Babies need help winding down at the end of the night, and if they are realizing that they are not getting ready for bed when they are tired, they may get a bit “punchy”, putting on a show and finding everything funny, since their bodies are running on pure adrenaline by this point.
Bedtime routines are the best way to help your little one wind down at the end of the night.
Other Possible Signs
Every child is unique, and yours may exhibit some signs that are out of the “ordinary” compared to other children - or anything that fits into the categories listed above.
Speaking from personal experience, my daughter exhibited the signs listed above on different occasions, but she also had other patterns she followed when she was past the point of regular tiredness.
When my little one was overtired, she would typically become very clumsy (obviously, falling over herself due to her extreme drowsiness), and she would become defiant (yes, even at 15/16 months of age).
She would test her limits, doing things she knew she was not supposed to and watching me while she did it.
Overtired babies also have a harder time staying asleep at night.
They will wake frequently, often crying or yelling, and this is made worse when they do not properly wind down before bedtime. They can also wake earlier in the morning if they do not rest well during the night due to overtiredness.
Needless to say, and overtired baby means an exhausted parent. It is best to establish a bedtime routine, with a set time for bed, so that you can know when to start watching for the first signs of tiredness in your baby.
When she is well-rested, you are as well.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns about your overtired baby, please leave us a comment below. And be sure to share this article with other parents who may be desperate for help in getting their little one to sleep.