5 Signs Your Baby Is Overtired - And How To Troubleshoot!

baby sleep false starts holistic sleep coach sleep coaching sleep troubleshooting May 08, 2024

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “is my baby UNDERtired or OVERtired?!” 

And I totally get it - it can be hard to tell! 

First, something to keep in mind. 

There’s a lot of fear around missing sweet spots when it comes to sleep, but remember, it’s NORMAL to see tired cues and we actually DO need your little one to have enough sleep pressure to settle well. Focusing on getting the right balance of sleep pressure can really help to ensure your baby is tired ENOUGH to settle well, but doesn't have so much sleep pressure that they become dysregulated.

Interestingly, we tend to come across more babies who are in deed UNDERtired, compared to OVERtired. So, be curious! It’s not ALWAYS overtiredness. 

Some babies are more sensitive to becoming overtired, though, so knowing the signs can help to get back on track if you are in this situation, or relieve lots of the stress if you aren't! 

Here are some signs that your baby may be truly overtired:

Your baby is miserable

A baby that is overtired is truly miserable. Maybe they don't want to eat, they don't want to play - nothing makes them happy and it feels like nothing you do can soothe them. If your baby is happy in their awake time, chances are, they aren't overtired.

False Starts & Night Wakes

It's really common for overtired babies to experience false starts and wakes in the first half of the night. Of course, false starts happen for many reasons and this is just ONE, so look at this in connection with their sleep latency & mood. If they are crashing to sleep and tick the box for miserable, this might be worth exploring!

Crashing/Hard Settles

When a baby is overtired, you might find that they either crash to sleep within minutes or are SO upset it's near impossible to calm them so bedtime takes forever.


This can be especially true in toddlers. When a baby is stretched too far, they may experience a rise in hormones like cortisol or adrenaline which can lead to some frantic/hyperactive behaviour - this might happen AFTER they have had lots of big emotions

Cranky Catnaps

Catnapping but waking up sooo upset and remaining cranky through the next awake time. Remember, catnapping is common for younger babies or can be as a result of not enough sleep pressure - the difference here is mood. If your baby wakes happy, no stress!

What You Can Do: 

  • Have a look at your little one's overall daily rhythm and consider if they need less awake time throughout the day or even just before bedtime. 
  • Could longer naps help? When a baby is overtired, they’re dysregulated and we need to focus on REGULATING their central nervous system, and shifting your focus to that can really help with calming them - rocking, bouncing, shushing, feeding, or dimming the lights. 
  • Take 3-5 days to 'reset' using assisted naps to help baby get back on track. 
  • Do an overhaul of sleep environment and sleep hygiene to make sure there isn't anything tangible you can change to help encourage some longer stretches.
  • If you know your baby is sensitive to sleep pressure, could it be beneficial to support short naps in arms to help them to lengthen? 
  • Could a temporary early bedtime help to ensure that baby isn't too dysregulated before the night stretch? 

To sum it up - if you think your baby is overtired, first have a look at their overall mood. This is often a good indicator of whether they may be undertired or overtired. And if they are, the first thing you're going to focus on is getting them CALM. We can't fall asleep in a stressed state. Try out the applicable tips above for a few days and you'll be on the right track! 

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Hi! I'm Claire! Hi! I'm Claire! A mum of three from Sydney, circle of security facilitator and OCN level 6 Certified Holistic Sleep Coach. Together with my incredible team, we are on a mission to support families to get better sleep in a truly responsive way that feels good, and works! 

Here at The Gentle Sleep Coach, we are passionate about working with families to provide them with gentle, responsive and holistic approaches to sleep that are 100% comfortable and reinstall confidence in the parents as the experts!