Top Tell Tale Signs of A Tired Child

Infant Sleep · Toddler Sleep

You know when a child is over tired…even if it’s not your child. The tell tale tantrums and obstinate temperament are dead giveaways, even when you’ve never met before. Those are pretty universal signals that sleep was needed…and missed.

It happens all too often, which is sad; there’s simply no need for it to escalate to the point that a child is miserable (and the parents and everyone else in close proximity!). You just have to watch for tired signs to clue you in that they are getting sleepy, but not yet wholly exhausted.

This is the art of knowing the signs that precede the meltdown, but are still clear indicators that sleep is needed.

If you can pick up on those, you’re golden because you can help your child get the rest they need before they fall apart and are too tired to sleep well.

How To Tell Your Child Needs Sleep

So how do you know it’s time to get ready for sleep? You look for signs and you watch the time.

Ideally you’ll be able to get your little one down for a nap or bedtime before there are overt signs of fatigue, but if you miss that window you can at least pick up on cues that signal a need for sleep and help them get there before the tears and tantrums commence.

Overt Child Sleep Cues

There are the obvious signs like yawning and rubbing eyes, of course. You probably recognize those quite easily because you do them, too, when you’re exhausted. Everyone does.

Once your child is yawning, it’s past time to lay down. Rubbing the eyes? Let’s get a hustle on, mama; it’s time to be in bed!

But what if you didn’t have to wait for a yawn to let you know? What if a yawn was just too close to the meltdown for your child and you needed to know sooner?

Covert Sleep Cues For Kids

That’s okay, there are other sleep cues common among kids. It’s not just rubbing eyes; any kind of face rubbing can be a sleep cue. So can nose scrunching. And ear pulling.

Some parents assume kids have allergies or are just playing when they make those cute little scrunchy nose faces and rub and tug, but usually that’s code for “Help me, Mommy, I need sleep but don’t know how to get it.”

Your little one is clearly signaling their need for some rest.

And that’s not all. Another cue is behavioral mood swings. Happy to sad or mad and happy again is a dead giveaway. But so is snuggling to playing to laying to cuddling.

Not being able to be content in a position or activity is also a sign of exhaustion.

That restlessness is also going to make it hard for your sweet little one to get settled down and go to sleep well, so ideally you’ll get them in bed before this behavior starts up. However, if it’s too late for that, then it’s time to make bedtime happen sooner rather than later.

How To Beat The Sleep Cues

So how can you get your child to bed before any of these cues are communicated? How do you know when the time is right?

You’re going to have to become a clock watcher.

Babies at each stage of development have an average amount of time they can stay awake before needing rest. Learn what your baby’s is and get them used to a schedule that honors that so they can be happy and well adjusted.

For instance, a 3-month old will need to go down for a nap about an hour and a half after waking. A young toddler maybe 5 hours later…even if you’re not seeing sleep cues.

So just keep one eye out for your child’s unique sleep cues and one eye on the clock; you’ll have a well rested, happy baby because you’re a good mama who’s on top of things!

What If My Baby Doesn’t Seem Tired?

That’s a good question. That means you’re doing a great job of making sure they are getting enough rest!

You really don’t want your child to get to the point when they seem tired; that’s the whole idea. You can have a happy, contented awake baby who goes to bed well with sleep training and being preemptive with bedtimes.


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