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Bedtime struggles? You could have an overtired child.

Updated: May 19, 2023

Bedtime struggles? You could have an overtired child.

Is bedtime frustrating for you and your child? You know, KNOW they are tired, but they won’t go to sleep? Or you think that there is no way that they are tired because they have so much energy, but it’s late.

This could be a sign that your baby or child is overtired. Have you ever gone to bed later than your normal bedtime and struggled to fall asleep? It is normal to have a hard time falling asleep when we are overtired. The same is true for our children.

It is harder for our kids to fall asleep when they are overtired. This is because when our kids are overtired, their natural hormone, cortisol kicks in. Technically, this hormone is labeled as the “stress hormone.” It kicks in when our kids have passed through from sleepy (“melatonin” hormone) to wired. Their bodies are using cortisol to fight to stay awake.

This will work against both you and your child, when this happens, I promise both of you are frustrated.

So how can we help our children to avoid the overtired state and recover from it? The first step is to be able to recognize overtired signs.

Here are a few overtired signs to look out for:

Hyper or Silly:

You're not sure what happened, but their energy just hit the fan, perhaps quite literally. They are running, jumping, and playing. This likely came out of nowhere or even a bit after some down time and yawns. Maybe you are thinking that they just had a burst of energy that may even be silly and bringing you joy. If this is a big change from where they were just a bit ago, they are past the point of being tired.


Hang tight, mood swings here we come! He or she may be easily bursting into tears, overreacting to the slightest thing. Yes, I know this can be common in the toddler stages, but if you are approaching bed or nap time, it could mean that sleepy cues have been missed and they are longing for some sleep.


We all love cuddles, right? But for some, especially if this happens close to bedtime, this could be an overtired sign. This may be time to take that little love of yours to bed.


Oh no! Did he just trip? Did he just drop that? Losing coordination can also be a sign of being overtired.

How You Can Help:

Focus on Bedtime

This may seem obvious, but with some of the above overtired signs it can seem like they are not tired at all. It is ok in this instance to shorten your bedtime routine and get them into bed as soon as you can. It is possible that when he or she may cry a little as they are working to fall asleep. Remember, it is harder to fall asleep when overtired. So, try to give them the space to work through it and get to sleep on their own.

Chip Away at Sleep Debt

If your child is tired, then it is possible that they missed out on sleep somewhere. Maybe they had a later bedtime the previous day. Perhaps they skipped a nap. Maybe they’ve been sick. Well, the best place to make up for lost sleep is with an earlier bedtime. This early evening sleep is precious. It can do wonders. Use it when you need it.

Quiet Time

Too early to put them to bed? You might consider some down time. I like to call this quiet time. Perhaps it can be time in their room, where they can play with calmer toys, read or color. Perhaps it is some extra time reading with you. This will help their bodies to rest a bit to help them make it to bedtime.

Quality Sleep

Did you know that there are times in the day where your child gets more restorative sleep than other times in the day? These times, of course, evolve evolves as they grow. An age appropriate schedule is vital for healthy sleep. Helping your child to obtain healthy sleeping habits and keeping them well rested is important for their growth and development. If you are offering the right amount of sleep at the right times and independent sleep, you are giving them a beautiful gift.

My Best,

sleep consultant

Certified Sleep Consultant


*based in Orlando, FL, but work remotely with families

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