April 23, 2024

Overtired vs. Undertired

Overtired vs. Undertired

In the intricate world of baby sleep, two opposing forces often cause a lot of confusion for parents: overtiredness and undertiredness. But how do you distinguish between the two?

Fear not, in this blog, we'll dive into the intricacies of overtiredness and undertiredness, illuminating the differences and empowering you to navigate your baby's sleep with clarity!



Picture this, your baby was yawning, rubbing their eyes and you know they were tired. You take them to their room, excited for a big nap where you might catch up on some Netflix! Except now it's suddenly impossible to get them to sleep, what the?! It's likely your little one has passed right through "being tired" stage and is now, overtired.

Overtiredness occurs when your baby misses their ideal window of opportunity for sleep. The solution? Just get them to sleep and everything will be ok right? If you've been there (and chances are, you have), then you know it's not quite as easy as it sounds.

The body's natural response to being tired is releasing cortisol and adrenaline, so at this point they have actually started pumping through their body and this makes it really difficult for them to settle to sleep. This is usually where you see that second wind or sudden burst of energy when they were acting sleepy just a few moments ago. 

Signs of Overtiredness:

  • Increased fussiness and irritability
  • Difficulty settling for sleep or taking a long time to settle
  • Hard to settle - you might see them pushing you away or screaming
  • False starts
  • Short naps (20min in many cases)
  • Frequent wakes
  • Early morning rising
  • Waking up unsettled or upset
  • Big emotions



What's that? Oh yeah, we also have to worry about the other end of the spectrum. Sometimes, we can be so worried about avoiding our little one becoming overtired, that we end up trying to put them to bed when they are undertired. 

An undertired baby, is exactly how it sounds. They haven't been awake for a long enough period to build up enough sleep pressure yet. Apparently, unlike us parents that would be thankful for any extra minutes of sleep, our little ones are not.... 

Signs of under tiredness:

  • Short naps (30min in many cases)
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking early from a nap but seeming happy
  • Fighting bedtime or hard to settle
  • Frequent wakes
  • Split nights (awake for more than 1hr happily in their cot)
  • Early morning rising



    Striking the delicate balance between overtired and undertired can feel like you're trying to solve an algebra equation that changes every day, or every nap even!

    Here are our TOP TIPS for avoiding both overtiredness and under tiredness.

    1. Follow an age-appropriate routine that takes into account wake windows and total daytime sleep based on your baby's sleep needs
    2. Learn and respond to your little one's sleep cues
    3. Have a flexible bedtime if naps don't go to plan
    4. Reach out for help if you're struggling to find that sweet spot or keep finding yourself in what feels like a never ending cycle of either overtiredness or under tiredness.


    Our team of Sleep Consultants can help you in a few different ways.

    • Our 3-12 Months Sleep Guide is packed full of information to help support your little one's sleep through this age.
    • For parents struggling with several things such as catnapping, frequent night waking, early morning rising or things that simply no longer work, have a look at our Phone + One Week Support option.
    • Not sure what is right for you? Get on the phone to one of our experienced consultants with our FREE 15min Discovery Call