I often hear someone say that their child is "overtired". I guess the idea is that if they don't go to sleep at exactly the right time, then they get "overtired" and they can't go to sleep.

Is there such a thing? Is it just a story we make up to explain a child that's not tired?

asked 07 Nov '10, 00:23

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Scott ♦♦
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Good question! Having the same problem currently (e.g. yesterday). She's tired, yawning, sometimes can't keep her eyes open and briefly closes them, only to open them wide a minute later for more yawning and fussing. Won't take milk, won't take pacifier, no diaper change necessary etc. After a stroller ride she sleeps 6 hours straight...

(07 Nov '10, 01:07) Alexander

My daughters both definitely get overtired.

My oldest for a long time would have to be in bed sleeping before 9pm or she would scream herself to sleep (no matter if we held her or whatever we tried). She is just starting to outgrow this at 2yrs. I think it started around 6mths when she couldn't sleep anywhere we were and needed to be asleep by a certain time.

She will also act 'random' when she gets too tired. She keeps playing and doing stuff but things that she would normally think about first or react to she simply doesn't. Most strangers will see this as just having more energy and acting out for show but there is a definite point where she gets too tired to think about what she is doing. She will fight us and not listen to reason more when she gets this tired/overtired as well.


answered 07 Nov '10, 02:51

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+1 @nikjoyce for the "random" behaviour. They can really get kinda strange when they're just too tired / overtired.

(07 Nov '10, 05:00) Neen

I was about to link to the same article as Tammy.

From our experience: We didn't experience it a lot when our kids were small babies but I have noticed more since they got more aware of what happens around them and didn't sleep everywhere.

Our two and half year old definitely gets overtired, normally after a really busy day where she hasn't had an afternoon sleep. She will suddenly lose the plot, nothing mummy or daddy do is right,she wont eat, she can't find the words to tell us what is wrong and the only way to deal with it is to put her into bed and let her cry herself to sleep(she will stop crying if I get her up and cuddle her but rockiing her wont get her to sleep in this state). Now we can predict if it is going to happen so we will try and preempt it and get her to bed before she loses it. I know other toddlers that do it as well.

Recently I have seen my 4 year old act overtired as well. One minute he is full of energy the next next he has no energy and if things aren't go his way he just can't cope. Fortunately he will if you put him into bed and goes to sleep with a little less fight than our younger one. Our four year still needs to have some quiet time (reading, puzzles TV etc) during his day to prevent overtired behaviour.


answered 07 Nov '10, 18:02

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edited 07 Nov '10, 19:45

I found this article at babycentre.com written by a physician pediatric sleep expert, Judith Owens.

While you may feel you're suddenly the parent of a whirling dervish — or Superman, who can get by without any sleep at all — it sounds like you have an overtired toddler on your hands. That's right: Even though he fights it like the dickens, he's really in need of a serious nap.

He's probably physically tired from exerting himself all day (running around the playground, clambering up and down the stairs, bouncing in his crib), intellectually excited by all he's learning, and emotionally tense about the things he doesn't quite understand.

As a result, he doesn't know which way is up. He can't figure out how to unwind enough to either rest or drift off to sleep. That means it's up to you to help him put it together. Remember: Sleep habits are a mixture of nature (biology) and nurture (learning and environment).

This appears to be are currently experiencing with our toddler:

Is he between nap stages? Kids often hit an overtired wall at around 18 months (when two naps are too many and one isn't enough) and again at 2 1/2 (when one nap is too many, but no nap is asking for trouble). If he's hitting this wall, there's not a lot you'll be able to do. Consider this another notch in your parental belt of "stages."


answered 07 Nov '10, 17:56

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Tammy ♦♦
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I think that "over tiredness" does exist and that through my own observations there are many different signs that can illustrate that.

Here are some signs that we observed with our daughter when she was younger, when bouts of, what seemed to be "over-tiredness" occurred;

  1. Seemed more energetic
  2. Determined not to sleep
  3. Enhanced irritability
  4. Adamantly refusing to calm down.
  5. Slightly aggressive
  6. Unable to stay still for a moment

I have never actually researched this, but fighting the sleepiness is what seemed to take place with our daughter, as she has grown older it has decreased tremendously to the point that it happens very very seldom, but when it does it is very apparent that she is in sleep denial.


answered 08 Nov '10, 08:35

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accept rate: 19%

+1 Emi, I think most kids do outgrow it as they get older. Unfortunately, they seem to start up again when they become teenagers. :)

(09 Nov '10, 07:14) Neen
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Asked: 07 Nov '10, 00:23

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Last updated: 08 Nov '10, 08:35