Tired signs: why they’re important
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’. These signs let you know when it’s time to reduce stimulation and start settling your child for sleep. If you wait until your child is overtired, your child will be harder to settle.
Newborns: tired signs
Newborn babies will probably get tired if they’ve been awake for 1-1½ hours.
If your newborn is tired, you might see some of the following tired signs:
- pulling at ears
- closing fists
- fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing – your baby might even go cross-eyed or seem to be staring into space
- making jerky arm and leg movements, or arching backwards
- frowning or looking worried
- sucking on fingers – this could be a good sign and might mean that your baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep.
Babies and toddlers: tired signs
At 3-6 months, your baby might be tired after 1½-3 hours awake.
At 6-12 months, your baby might be tired after 2-3 hours awake.
At 12-18 months, your child might be overtired if they miss out on a morning or afternoon sleep.
If your baby or toddler is tired, you might see some of the following tired signs:
- grizzling or crying
- demands for attention
- boredom with toys
- fussiness with food.
Tired or hungry?
Grizzling and crying can mean your child is tired, but it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between tired grizzling and hungry grizzling.
If your baby has had a feed within the last two hours and is grizzling and cranky, baby is probably tired. If you’re not sure, offer a feed. If your baby takes only a little milk and is still grizzly, baby needs a sleep.
If your child is showing signs of tiredness, it’s a good idea to get them ready for sleep by reducing stimulation. You can do this by:
- taking your child to the place where they usually sleep
- 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 in the place where your child usually sleeps will help your child settle to sleep.
Quiet time with your child might include a gentle cuddle, a story or a quiet song.
Your child might need only a few minutes of quiet time before they’re relaxed and ready to be put in bed. If your household is noisy and active, your child might need some extra quiet time before it’s time for sleep.