Sept. 13, 2021

Ask Amy - How Can I Tell When My Kid Is Overtired?

There's a fine line between tired and overtired. Sometimes the right bedtime exit becomes clear only once you've blown right past it. Overtiredness can look like hyperactivity, irritability or clinginess–and it’s caused by a sudden rush of adrenalin.


There's a fine line between tired and overtired, and sometimes the right bedtime exit becomes clear only once you've blown right past it. A member of our Facebook group asked:

How do I tell the difference between overtired and just plain not tired? In other words, is my toddler not settling to sleep because I’m putting him down too early or too late?

Some of the main symptoms of overtiredness are hyperactivity, irritability, and clinginess– caused by a sudden rush of adrenalin. Here's how The Sleepy Company explains overtiredness:

Your toddler's body goes from from the state of being ready for sleep to an "alert and active" state. The body can no longer cope with its fatigue and activates a stress response, pumping adrenalin and cortisol (the hormone that keeps us awake and alert) into the body. This interferes with the normal release of melatonin (the hormone that makes us drowsy), causing irritability and hyperactive behavior.

You can be a detective about how your own kid manifests overtiredness so you get better at catching the right window– but in this episode, Amy suggests what may be an easier and more effective long-term approach. Consistency around bedtime– both the routines, and the time at which it occurs– takes the guesswork out of "is my kid ready for bed?", both for yourself and for your little one.

Special thanks to our "Question of the Week" sponsor:

Jane.com is a boutique marketplace featuring the latest in women’s fashion, accessories, home decor, children’s clothing, and more. By shopping at jane.com, you support small businesses, 1500 of which are women-owned. And you will not believe the prices! Visit jane.com/laughing.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices