Sleep Cues



It's not always obvious when a child is getting tired... Here's how to recognize "sleep signs" so you can get your child to bed BEFORE they become overtired!


The following question is from Trish, who wrote: "Help! Why can’t I recognize my three-month-old’s sleep signs? No yawing, no eye rubbing. She seems to go from quite happy to very upset in a split second and then it takes a while to settle her down and get her to sleep."


Usually, when someone refers to “sleep signs,” clear signals that the child is tired, they think of yawning and perhaps eye rubbing. Some signs you may not be aware of though are nose scrunching and ear pulling, anything that has to do with rubbing the face (like turning their face into your chest). Once a client's son kept rubbing his nose and he looked tired. She replied “Oh really? I thought he just had allergies.”


It’s easy to miss some of the signs of fatigue, but if your child is doing any type of rubbing or pulling, they’re definitely tired. Don’t wait for a yawn. Trish’s baby seems to go from happy to upset at the drop of a dime. Her baby is probably very good at hiding her fatigue. Sometimes when they start to have feelings of being tired they’ll push through those feelings with perhaps more active play and maybe even get a little hyper. They’ll kick into “overdrive” and almost become a bit manic.

That squirmy baby, the one who doesn’t want to sit on your knee, doesn’t want to stand up, arches their back, crawls around very quickly, laughs one moment, and cries the next is a tired baby and ready for sleep. If your child is happy one second and crying the next, you might have to keep more of an eye on the clock that you do on your baby. A three-month-old like Trish’s baby can handle about an hour/hour and fifteen minutes of awake time. If she woke up at 8 a.m., then by 9/9:15 a.m., she’s most likely ready for a nap.


In this case, even if they’re calm and happy and not showing any “sleep signs,” I always suggest that it’s better to put them down too soon rather than too late. Sometimes the calmer the baby goes down, the faster sleep comes and it becomes an easier transition for them.


Keeping an eye on your child’s individual sleep signs, along with the clock for those who don’t show any clear signs, will definitely help your child sleep well.


If you need help knowing your child's wake window, download my free sleep tips sheet to help!

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