Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Overtired Baby Signs, Causes and How to Avoid being Overtired.

As a first, or even second time parent it can be hard to know the signs that could indicate overtiredness in your baby. There are a few different age groups to consider, but many of the signs are similar. 

Many times newborns fall into the red-zone, overtired zone, when  they’ve been awake too long.  Once they are overtired, their weak self-regulation skills make it hard to get out of this phase.  How can we prevent your child from falling into the red-zone? Keep reading!

Signs to look for before your child enters the overtired red-zone: 


  • Yawning
  • Redness under the eye
  • Fussy
  • Less eye contact
  • Decreased limb activity
  • Glazed over look

4-24 Months:

All listed signs from Newborns plus:

  • Falling asleep in the car immediately even though it’s not nap time  (4-24 months)
  • Frequent night wakings (4-24 months)

2-4 Years:

All listed signs from Newborns and 4-24 months plus:

  • Appearing wired at bedtime (2-4)

What causes a baby to become overtired in the first place? 

Factors that can lead to being overtired::

  • Staying awake too long between naps or before bed
  • Waking up frequently in the night over a series of days or weeks, which will affect the quality of sleep
  • Being caught in this overtired cycle is a negative feedback loop - it keeps you stuck.  It’s harder to fall asleep and then stay asleep.  Which makes them more tired the next day. And repeat.    

What can a parent do to try and help their baby avoid being overtired?  

  • Start observing
  • When your child starts to appear fussy, can you use deduction skills to identify root cause 
  • Time since last feed
  • Did baby burp well
  • Time since last nap
  • Use the clock
  • Start watching the clock as well as using the sleepy cues to help guide you to know when it's nap time
  • Projecting out when the next nap needs to happen. 
  • Look at our Sleep Summary by Age Handout to get an idea as to how much sleep your  child needs in 24 hours.
  • Know when to make sleep happen 
  • Don’t try to put them down too early, and try to push them a little bit longer

If you like these tips check out our six question Sleep Quiz to get a personalized response based on your child’s age and your answers. 

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