By Elizabeth PantleyAuthor of The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Do you know exactly when your baby is tired and ready to sleep? Reading these signs can be a bit of a mystery sometimes! You can encourage your child’s healthy sleep by getting to know your baby’s sleepy signals, and then putting her down to sleep as soon as she seems tired. A baby cannot understand her own sleepy signs, nor can she put herself to sleep, so she’s counting on you.

A baby who stays awake when her body is craving sleep quickly becomes overtired, unhappy and fussy. Over time, the pattern develops into sleep deprivation, which further complicates and interferes with your baby’s developing sleep maturity.

If you put your baby to bed purely by the clock, not by his tired signs, he may not be ready to sleep, and a bedtime battle ensues. Once you change this dynamic and began identifying his sleepy signals he will fall asleep easier and sleep longer, too.

Timing is important, too!

Children have a span of time when they are full of energy, but after that passes they lose steam and become tired. Once your child has passed his happy wakefulness stage he’ll quickly become overtired. He’ll then be easily overstimulated and find it harder to fall asleep.

Most newborns can only handle one or two hours of wakefulness at a time. A three-month-old gets tired after two to three hours of awake time. A one-year-old can be cheerful for about three to four hours, and a two-year-old about five to six hours.

Finding that magic moment of tiredness

Use the clock as a general guide, along with your child’s sleepy signals as indicators, and you can find the magic moment when your baby is tired . . . but not overtired. When nap or bedtime is near, and you see those signs of fatigue, then it’s a quick but calm trip right to bed – don’t launch into a long pre-bed routine, since your child may then get a second wind!

Common sleepy signals

Every unique child has his own sleepy signs, and you can watch and learn to recognise your child’s signs. Your child may demonstrate one or more of these signs that tell you he is tired and ready to sleep – right now:

  • reducing his level of movement and activity
  • becoming more quiet
  • losing interest in people, toys and playtime
  • rubbing his eyes
  • looking glazed or unfocused
  • having a more relaxed jaw, chin and mouth (droopy looking)
  • becoming whiny and cranky
  • fussing or crying
  • losing patience or having tantrums
  • yawning
  • lying down or slumping in his seat
  • watching television or a movie with a blank expression
  • caressing a lovey or blanket
  • asking for a pacifier, bottle or to nurse

Your child may demonstrate one or more of these sleepy signs, or even something entirely different. The signs may change at each stage of development. The key is to watch your child and encourage him to sleep as soon as he is tired.

These tips are from The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley