As a parent there is one situation we try to avoid, an overtired child. An overtired child finds it really hard to settle and being overtired is quite a common problem in children. When adults are tired, we typically slow down and feel lethargic. A child however, does the opposite, becomes hyperactive or if they are a small baby can cry for long periods which can be confused with other ailments. These signs can be interpreted differently leading to further sleep deprivation
The Cambridge Dictionary defines overtired as ‘extremely tired often so that you can not sleep.’ Don’t you hate it, the dictionary is right! Those nights when you are really tired and you lay awake until 2am… this is being overtired!
Children are the same as adults and quite often the cause for my consultations is an overtired child. There are many myths out there around sleep. Some statements I have heard…. ‘Children don’t need lots of sleep, I need to keep them awake so they sleep well at night’… Another favourite ‘there is no way my child is going to have a sleep they have so much energy!’ These are myths and it is important that we allow our children to have adequate sleep. Sleep is essential for our bodies so growth, rejuvenation and repair can occur. 75% of brain growth occurs after we are born (McKenna et al) and sleep is often when this brain growth occurs.
We need to understand our child’s tired signs. Every child has a different way of expressing this and I would encourage you to observe these signs as once you know what they are it helps everyone have a better day and night!
- Rubbing eyes/ eyebrows
- Nuzzling into chest/ pulling ears
If we miss the tired signs and our child escalates into being overtired we have some options.
- Babies are highly responsive to contact with their parents. So remove them from the situation, put them in their swaddle with their comforters and give them a hug in a darkened room. In these situations you will have to help them fall asleep, you may need to pat, rock, and ‘shoosh’ to help them fall asleep.
- You may need go for a walk, or pick up a friend and go for a drive. These are times when you just need to help them fall asleep.
- With toddlers, it is reducing the stimulation and trying to calm them down. It may be having some quiet playtime in their bedroom and reading a few books before saying goodnight.
These are not what I would encourage you to do for every sleep or nap but rather when you have a child that you just have to get to sleep. Sleep is the kindest gift you can give an overtired child.
As for being an overtired adult, you may want to download an app, Smiling Mind is one that I have used which has helped calm my mind so I can fall asleep. Back to one of my basic rules, sleep when the baby sleeps.