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How do I get my tired child to sleep?

by Ines Wurbs

This problem affects all parents sooner or later. The odd thing about overtired children is that they don’t get lethargic like adults. Overtired children often show their full power. One might even think that there is no trace of tiredness. And here’s the problem.

When children are overtired, you need to be patient and calm them down slowly. It helps:

  • To bring them into a quiet environment
  • Lullabies
  • Reading stories
  • Evening routines
  • Stay calm in the room

Of course, the best thing is to avoid the situation and bring them to bed on time.

I can say one thing in advance. When a child is overtired, all that remains is to remain calm. Use the techniques below to calm your child.

How do you help a tired child?

As already mentioned, you face a fundamental problem when your child is overtired. First, you should realize that trying to put your overtired child to sleep can take a long time.

It should be noted that a normally tired child may need up to an hour to settle down before going to bed. If the child is overtired, this can take longer.

Now and then you get lucky and the child just falls asleep without discussion. As many parents probably know, this behavior is an exception. If that’s the case, be happy.

For the other cases, try the techniques below.

Remove the child from the stimulating environment

Put the child in a quiet environment, so it could calm down. This could be the bedroom, but a bathroom is also a suitable place here (if bath toys are not within reach). 

Create an environment that leaves little room for a party. Your child should be kept away from stimulating toys and should have the possibility to calm down.

Read a story

When your child is in bed, you can read him/her a bedtime story. It’s best to use stories your child already knows to avoid adding excitement. Through the well-known story, processes can be initiated in the brain that calm the flow of thoughts and initiate sleep.

Sing lullabies

Just like the evening story, lullabies also help. These calm our children and bring them closer to sleep.

Evening routines

The above measures work best if you have already packed them into an evening ritual. If you already have an evening ritual, that’s fine, if not: create one.

Take up to 30 minutes in the evening to ritualize bringing your children to bed. This may well include evening hygiene, stories, and lullabies.

Stay with the kid

Stay close to the child. Sit quietly in the room and soothe your child when they get loud or start playing. Keep it short and use quiet “shh” sounds to “reprimand”.

Deep, slightly audible breathing can also help to create a calming environment for the child.

Be patient

If your child is particularly hyper, it may seem that the previous measures have rebounded uselessly. That can happen. Be patient, though, your child will need time to settle down. This can sometimes take a little longer.

Try to be patient. If you are unsuccessful, leave your child alone in the room (this should no longer be a problem from age 2). Come back if you don’t succeed. This can also be repeated. But pay attention to the reaction. For some kids it works well, some others get feigned.

What are the signs that my child is too tired?

How can you tell if your child is tired? There are some signs, but these may vary from child to child.

The evening turns into a nightmare

If your child starts behaving unusually in the evening, this is already a sign of not getting enough sleep. Depending on the child, the signs can be different. 

These symptoms usually appear in the evening, 1-2 hours before normal bedtime.

The madness of the night

A classic sign is an evening rush of hyperactivity. Your child is going full steam ahead and there doesn’t seem to be a trace of tiredness.

The opposite is the case. The body fights fatigue by releasing hormones. These chemical processes get the body stressed. Of course, that doesn’t help with sleep. 

Excitement over trifles

Another sign is when your child cries, becomes whiny or is angry over small things. The thread of patience seems to be razor-thin, and the smallest annoyance becomes a big problem.


Clinginess can also be an effect of fatigue. Your child wants to be with you all the time. A riot will automatically follow if you try to put your child to bed briefly.

Restless sleep

You might think that overtired children sleep well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Overtired children usually sleep less well. Your night is marked by:

  • Frequent wakefulness
  • restlessness
  • nightmares
  • Early wake up

How can I prevent my child from being too tired?

With these signs, you can recognize whether it is a question of over-fatigue. But how can you prevent your child from being overtired? The answer sounds banal. Your child needs enough sleep. If you see signs of tiredness in the evening, you should consider whether your children are getting enough sleep.

For that, I can recommend further reading my article “How long should my child sleep?”. In this article, you will find a handy sleep chart that you can use to see how much sleep your kids need and also how to create a good sleeping environment for your kids.

It is best to keep a sleep diary for a few days or a week. Write down how long your child sleeps every day. Compare the average values ​​after the observation period with the table from the article linked above.

If you find that your child is not getting enough sleep, it is clear. Try extending bedtimes. If the behavior improves, everything is fine. If not, you should consider getting professional help. Your pediatrician would be the first point of contact here.

Conclusion about tiredness and sleep

Sometimes children are overtired. However, if these situations happen more often, you should consider adjusting your sleeping times to be age-appropriate. However, if you are already in a situation where your child is overtired, you can try to calm your child down slowly using the methods described above. This can vary in length from case to case.

However, the child will calm down and slowly fall asleep. Don’t get excited too soon, though, and be prepared for a long night.

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