Every single parent I know has a story of being somewhere when baby is melting down and a stranger will say "Looks like someone needs a nap".
Thanks Captain Obvious.
Those tell-tale signs of a tired infant (yawning, pulling at their face, turning away from stimulation) are great indicators that baby could use some sleep. But what about signs that are a little more subtle, signs that can mean that baby is experiencing extreme sleep deprivation and needs some intervention pronto? Let's take a look at what those may be, some of them may not be so obvious to you.
Your child falls asleep in less than 5 minutes at nap or bedtime.
On average, your child should take between 5 and 20 minutes to naturally fall asleep. Think about yourself after you crawl into bed, you probably fluff your pillow, adjust your blankets and you may toss for a bit before finally, you succumb to sleep. Now, think about nights where you were extremely tired. Maybe you had to get up extra early, or slept poorly the night before. Either way, when you hit the sack you're often asleep rather quickly. The difference being, as an autonomous adult, can remove yourself from stimulating situations and retreat to the safety of your bedroom. Babies are at the mercy of adults that though well-meaning, may not be considering their needs.
Your child falls asleep within minutes of being placed in a car seat or stroller.
A well rested child will take the occasional car or stroller nap, but usually if it coincides with naptime. Often, parents of these overtired children rely on these motion induced naps because they're struggling with a crib nap. Here's the problem with that one; naps where baby's head falls forward on to their chest are just plain unsafe. That position of head slumped forward can restrict airways and lead to suffocation. That's not to say you should be terrified of baby sleeping in the car, but rather that you should use responsible judgement and take baby out of their stroller or car seat upon arrival at your destination. If you do need to take a long car ride, leave at nap time. Baby's circadian rhythm will kick in and allow them to have their normal nap, and wake for the remainder of the car ride. Maybe plan for some extra stops, just in case.
Your toddler is exhibiting signs of hyperactivity or "mania".
Often, parents of toddlers, fight me on my early bedtime suggestions. They claim that there is no way and no how that their child will go to bed early. When your child is running, or dancing, or putting on a maniacal show in the evening they are most likely exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation. Another indicator can be clumsiness, statistically speaking school-aged children who are chronically overtired will break more bones than their well rested counterparts.
As your child ages, those signs of sleep deprivation can become far more serious. As explored in Sleep deprivation in children can be the cause for any of these issues*:
-Lack of healthy weight gain.
-Lack of healthy growth.
-Concentration issues (can be misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD).
-Health issues (your child is often sick).
-An increased risk of juvenile diabetes.
-Compromised neurobehavioral functioning (poor mood or emotion regulation).
Sleep Deprivation and most of the effects of it can be corrected if caught early. If you think your child is dealing with an extreme case of sleep deprivation and is exhibiting signs of a serious illness, talk to your physician. If you need some help creating a healthy sleep environment for your child, give me a call and we can talk about finding a solution that is right for your family.
* For more information, check out "Sleep Solutions for Children: Healthy Sleep Healthy Body" by Cathy Wilson