Children show they’re tired through changes in behaviour. For example, your child might be suddenly irritable, overactive or demanding. It’s important to look for your child’s ‘tired signs’. This can help you reduce stimulation and start settling your child before overtiredness sets in.
Newborn babies will probably get overtired if they’ve been awake for more than 1½ hours. At 3-6 months, your baby will be overtired after 1½-2½ hours awake.
If your newborn is tired, you might see some of the following tired signs:
- pulling at ears
- closing fists
- fluttering eyelids
- jerky arm and leg movements
- a worried look on your child’s face
- arching backwards
- difficulty focusing (your child might even go cross-eyed)
- sucking on fingers (this could be a good sign and mean that your baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep).
Babies and toddlers
At 6-12 months, your baby will be overtired after 2-3 hours awake. At 12-18 months, your baby will be overtired if baby misses out on the morning or afternoon sleep.
If your baby or toddler is tired, you might see some of the following tired signs:
- demands for constant attention
- boredom with toys
- fussiness with food.
Grizzling and crying can mean your child is absolutely exhausted, but it’s often hard to tell the difference between tired grizzling and hungry grizzling.
If your child is showing signs of tiredness, you can reduce stimulation by:
- taking your child to the place where your child usually sleeps
- putting toys away
- talking quietly and soothingly
- closing curtains and blinds
- turning overhead lights off – use lamps if you need to
- playing music quietly – this will help cut down on background noise.
Making quiet time
Some quiet time before bed will help your child settle to sleep:
- Give your child some quiet time in the place where your child usually sleeps.
- Calm your child with a gentle cuddle or by reading a story or singing a quiet song.
- Your child might need only a few minutes of quiet time before your child is relaxed and ready to be put in bed. If your household is noisy and active, your child need some extra quiet time before it’s time for sleep.
When it comes to sleep every baby is different, as the parents in this video note. But it can really help to get to know your own baby’s tired signs.
These mums and dads also talk about encouraging baby sleep. In particular, they share tips on:
- identifying sleep cues
- finding out what helps babies to sleep
- being consistent with sleep and settling techniques.
You might need to experiment to find out what works for your baby.