Lots of parents tell me that their children are remarkably happy, despite getting enough sleep.
The truth is, it can be hard to tell if your child is getting enough sleep. This is because obvious signs of fatigue (like yawning and eye rubbing) are much less common in overtired children.
Here are some less obvious signs that your child may not be getting enough sleep:
1. Does your child get hyperactive or manic, particularly in the late afternoon or early evening? Overtiredness can actually mimic the symptoms of ADHD. This is because overtired children usually don’t wind down, they wind up… think of the Energizer Bunny.
Babies may need ever more bouncing, swinging, rocking to stay calm. Older children may be bouncing off the walls.
2. Do you regularly need to wake your child for school or daycare? A well-rested child should wake on their own at the appropriate time.
3. Does your child sleep late on weekends? As delicious as it is for parents, sleeping late is a sign of chronic overtiredness.
4. Does your child fall asleep before a scheduled nap in the car or stroller? Or does your non-napping child take a nap at any time if in the car? A well-rested child shouldn’t doze off in the car unless it’s a car ride at a scheduled time.
5. Is your child clumsy, irritable, or easily frustrated? A “difficult” child may actually just be a tired child.
If your child is showing one or more of these symptoms, try moving bedtime a few minutes earlier each night. A good goal for most children under 6 years old is a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
PS If you would like help figuring out if your child is overtired, schedule a free consult and let’s discuss it. Prices from 2020 ($399 for a two-week package) will be honored until the end of January, 2021 -- just ask on the phone call.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.