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Overtired: 10 Signs You (or Your Baby) Are Overtired and How to Help

by SleePare

By Dustin Morgan | 5 minutes Minute Read

Our busy schedule keeps us awake, which, if left unchecked, can make us overtired. It can, in turn, take a toll on our mental, physical, and emotional health. 

When we ignore our sleep needs, we risk exhaustion, which can have a negative effect on our performance in the long run. Identifying signs of overtiredness and making small lifestyle changes accordingly can improve our overall health.

a burned out person

What Is Being Overtired?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, overtiredness is being extremely exhausted yet being unable to fall asleep. 

Our always active lifestyle has made it difficult for us to switch off at bedtime. A packed daytime routine and thriving nightlife can put us in a headspace of false energy. If we’re not careful, it can keep us active for a prolonged duration, draining all our energy.

When we overstress ourselves, our brain switches to survival mode causing an adrenaline rush and urgent demand for quick energy. Therefore, it becomes nearly impossible for us to let go and unwind at bedtime so we find it difficult to sleep properly and hence, feel groggy the next morning.

work pressure

Signs You Are Overtired

When you’re overtired, your body tries to compensate by making more energy. Due to this surge of energy, people often miss signs of overtiredness and keep going despite being burned out. 

Here we have explored a few of the most common tell-tale signs of overtiredness in adults.

Person with phone in bed

1. When Your Mind is Overstimulated

T’wired consciousness is a term coined by Rubin Naiman, a sleep researcher at the University of Arizona. He says being tired and wired simultaneously is a condition when we are extremely fatigued yet highly energized as we fail to disconnect from daytime stress. T’wired consciousness can also cause physiological changes like faster brain waves, rapid heartbeat, and increased body temperature. 

It’s not only being overworked that can cause stress, but modern-day devices such as phones and laptops also play a vital role. Being exposed to graphic images, noise, and sensory disturbances for a longer duration can overstimulate and exhaust our brain.

Tip: If you are overtired due to work-related stress, go for a jog or take a stroll in the park. Light exercise can help you doze off quickly too. A digital detox an hour before bed helps your brain to calm down before you hit the hay.  

stuffing sugary sweets

2. You’re On Sugar Drive

A leading sleep researcher, Raymann, noticed he was experiencing sudden cravings for fast food in the early morning. When he thought about it, he realized that working for long hours on rotating shifts was causing him to suffer from chronic sleep loss. 

Extreme sleep deprivation releases specific hunger hormones that can cause people to crave sugar and high-calorie food. These sugary foods can boost energy levels and increase serotonin production to combat stress. However, overconsumption of such foods can lead to nutritional deficiency and obesity.  

Tip: When craving sugar, eat fresh fruits as they have high nutritional value. You can even increase the intake of energy-boosting foods such as fish, bananas, eggs, and dark chocolate. These healthy alternatives increase blood flow, improve mood, and reduce stress. 

Sleep deprived

3. You Feel Sleep Deprived

According to a study conducted by the University of Konstanz in 2005, our inability to detach from daytime stress causes sleep disturbances. Furthermore, staying preoccupied with work until bedtime can lead to a non-stop wakefulness. 

Sleeplessness affects your daytime performance, mood, and decision-making abilities. Due to this, you may feel edgy and irritable with little or no control over your emotions. 

Tip: Make a calendar of daily tasks and prioritize them accordingly. Striking them off as you complete each task gives you a sense of control and accomplishment. This can minimize work-related stress.

sick person

4. You Get Sick Often

Stress weakens your immune system. Being overtired makes you prone to common colds and flu. It can also impact the response of your immune system and weakens the fight against illnesses. Thus, slowing down the recovery process.  

Tip: As soon as you feel tired, take some rest to prevent the weakening of your immune system. If you’re sick, then get as much sleep as you can to fight against germs. You can also consume immunity-boosting foods and Vitamin C supplements for a healthy, strong body.

irritated people arguing

5. You Feel Low and Irritable

Overtiredness also causes apathy, lack of concentration, and irritability. You can easily get overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks due to a lack of motivation. This might lead you to overwork and underachieve. 

Not only this, but overtiredness can also take a toll on maintaining relationships as you lose emotional stability. It also affects the way your brain processes and reasons emotions, which is why you often snap when tired. 

Tip: Unwind and relax when you feel tired. You can take a stroll to the park, enjoy calming music, or just spend some time with yourself. It can destress your mind and make you feel happy with the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. 

tired worker

6. Your Work Performance is Affected

To be the best at your game, you need focus, dedication, and time management. But due to increased workload, you lose concentration and become overtired. As a result, you lose problem-solving skills, logical reasoning, and foresight.

Studies have shown if you’re not well-rested, your reaction time is as slow as that of an intoxicated person. It also inhibits your decision-making power as you tend to be less attentive and motivated. 

Tip: Other than having a restful sleep, you can make your work life more organized. Prioritize your tasks, and as you cross each off your list, you’ll feel more accomplished. This makes it easier to deal with complex and demanding projects.

person with acne looking worried

7. You Suffer From Breakouts

Eight hours of restorative sleep at night boosts collagen production, which keeps our skin fresh and lustrous. 

But if you’re overtired and sleep-deprived, then the cortisol level (stress hormone) spikes, which causes inflammation and lackluster. It also leads to acne, breakouts, dark circles, and wrinkles.

Tip: Don’t ignore the signs of skin aging. You may be able to hide them under makeup, but you can’t fulfill your body’s need for sleep without wholesome rest. Eight hours of peaceful slumber and a well-hydrated body can improve your skin conditions. Healthy food also plays a crucial part in replenishing your skin.

fat person eating a lot

8. You Gain Weight

One in every ten individuals experiences chronic ongoing tiredness with women more at risk than men. According to various researches, fatigue and sleep loss affect glucose and leptin/ghrelin levels in the blood. They increase hunger and reduce metabolism rate resulting in weight gain. 

When you’re tired, your energy levels are also low, making it difficult to exercise or do any physical activity. This again leads to weight gain as you have a lower chance to burn fats.

Tip: Setting a diet plan can be the best way to overcome this problem. Eat healthy food with probiotics to strengthen your digestive system. Stay active and regularly walk to burn calories. Get ample sleep as it influences both your appetite and energy levels. 

Unhappy couple on bed

9. You Have Low Libido

Restful sleep releases sex hormones. According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, men who sleep less than five hours a night habitually can have 10% to 15% less testosterone levels compared to those who get healthy sleep.

Tiredness not only affects the sex hormone level but also impairs the reproductive cycle in men and women, making it difficult for them to have a baby.

Tip: Getting optimum sleep is the only way to maintain your sex hormone levels and keep your reproductive cycle healthy. Schedule a date night to break through the redundant work routine and reduce stress levels. 

fat person in gym exhausted

10. You Are Unable to Achieve Fitness Goals

Most of the muscle growth and tissue repairs take place during REM sleep when our body naturally produces muscle-building hormones. But overtiredness affects our sleep patterns and reduces deep sleep duration, thus inhibiting muscle growth.

It can even disrupt our internal body functions and activate survival mode. This, in turn, affects our balance and hand-eye coordination, resulting in falls and injuries. Fatigue also influences blood pressure, sugar, and pH levels, thus putting our health at risk.

Tip: To avoid muscle weakness, fatigue, and disruption of body functions, take adequate sleep at scheduled bedtimes. You can even take muscle strengthening supplements such as protein shakes, milk, and eggs.

fussy baby crying

Signs Your Baby is Overtired

In today’s world, even our children are always on the go. We love to see our kids active and playful, but an overtired child can get out of hands pretty quickly. They are unable to manage the energy surge, and it can lead to all sorts of problems like chronic sleep deprivation and future health complications. 

Your best bet is to prevent your child from overtiredness. Here are a few early signs of overtiredness in your baby. 

1: They Pull Their Ears

Pulling ears and tugging hair is one of the first signs of an overtired baby. There’s no specific reason why babies do that, but it supposedly calms them down by releasing pressure in the ear canal. However, these signs can often be mistaken for teething or ear infection as well.

2: They Become Clingy

Nothing can provide comfort to the baby than a mother’s or a caregiver’s lap. Since overtired babies want to be consoled and soothed; therefore, they want you to carry them and don’t want to let go of you. 

3: Their Eyes Become Watery

Our eyes get tired when exposed to bright lights and colorful images for a long time. Fatigue diminishes blinking and irritates our tear glands to release tears for lubrication. This is why babies’ eyes become red and watery when they’re sleepy.

sleepy baby

4: They Zone Out

Babies zone out and stare blankly into space when tired. It is because they lose focus and find it hard to concentrate. They also lose interest in activities that they usually enjoy, otherwise.

5: They Become Irritable

When kids become grumpy or frown and grimace for no apparent reason, it means they’re tired and need to sleep. Children usually find it difficult to sleep on their own and need you to lull them to sleep, which makes them fussy and irritable.

6: They Have Sudden Outbursts

Tantrums and unexpected meltdowns are a few of the most common symptoms of overtiredness in babies. In such instances, the child becomes inconsolable and cries for prolonged periods, which can affect cognitive development.

7: They Take Quick Cat Naps

Children can often take micro-snoozes during the day to cover up for sleep loss. But they are too short to let the brain drift to deeper and restorative sleep. This leads to persistent tiredness

8: They Become Hyperactive

The fear of missing out is real in kids. Therefore their bodies release a higher level of cortisol and adrenaline when tired. The boosted energy levels make them hyperactive even when sleepy.  

Tips for Getting an Overtired Baby to Sleep

Young children have a set duration for which they must sleep. This awake time depends mostly on their age. For instance, a newborn can stay up for 45 minutes only while a toddler can manage 4-6 hours of stimulation. If you miss their sleep window, babies can become overtired and resist sleep due to the high-level of energy released by their body as compensation. 

Here are several tips to help you get your overtired, fussy baby to sleep.

1. Swaddle Up Your 5-month Old

Babies who are five months old or younger love to be swaddled. It gives them a sense of security and comfort while diminishing startled reflexes. It also becomes a strong sleep cue but keep a few things in mind when swaddling your little one:

  • Swaddle only when it’s sleep or nap time
  • Before wrapping them up, change diapers
  • At night, keep the baby swaddled when feeding to avoid disturbance.

2. Give Them a Warm Bath

A warm bath soothes the baby because it improves blood circulation. The body temperature also decreases, which is one of the most important sleep triggers. Since bath catalyzes the brain's sleep mechanism, it’s best to incorporate it into the nighttime routine. 

Following are few things to keep in mind while giving your baby a warm bath:

  • Keep the water temperature between 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Just fill-up the tub to few inches for a quick dip
  • Don’t use soap every time you bath your child as it can dry off the skin

Children in bathrobe

3. Prepare a Bedtime Routine

Set up a routine for your child and be consistent with it. Put your child early to bed with 15-20 minutes to wind down before the actual sleep time. Remove access to over-stimulating activities such as watching TV, and playing with musical toys. 

Here are a few suitable activities for bedtime routine:

  • Dim light and remove sources of noise
  • Brush their teeth and change pajamas
  • Put on soft music or white noise
  • Give goodnight hugs and kisses

They work as sleep cues, making it easier for babies to differentiate between sleep and playtime.

4. Sing a Lullaby or Read a Story

Singing lullaby or reading a story to your kids in bed strengthens the parent-child bonding. These activities become a nighttime ritual signaling the child that it’s time to sleep. According to experts, bedtime stories and lullabies comfort the child and induce sleep. 

Some things to consider are:

  • Speak in hushed tones
  • End the story or lullaby while they are still awake
  • Don’t interact physically or make eye contact at bedtime

while noise machine in kids bedroom

5. Block Out Noise

Noise can easily disrupt your child’s sleep. Parents often rely on alternative measures such as white noise machines to block out these disturbances. Specific sounds like rainforest or beach sounds can induce sleep. 

At times, the white noise machines even contain instrumental lullabies and heartbeat melodies to create a comfortable and secure sleep environment. 

Keep in mind the following points when using white noise machines:

  • Place them at least 7 feet (200 cm) away from your baby
  • Some babies won’t respond well to these machines 
  • Many of the devices exceed the recommended noise limit (50 decibels)

6. Avoid Eye Contact

Eye contact is a strong way of communicating with your child. When putting them to sleep, it’s best to avoid such instances for quick sleep onset time. 

Experts believe eye contact snaps the child out of their sleep zone and makes them active and playful. The more interaction between you and the child, the more motivated she will be to get up. 

While getting your child to sleep:

  • Keep it low-key
  • Don’t sound too excited
  • Touch or rock gently

Preventing Overtiredness

Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of overtiredness among adults and babies alike. This affects our overall health and body malfunctioning. But here, we have a few tips to prevent overtiredness in both adults and babies. 

calm despite work pressure

Preventing Overtiredness In Adults

Overtiredness can drastically influence your performance. It can also affect your sleep pattern as you find it harder to doze off and maintain an uninterrupted snooze. We might seem and feel okay with our late bedtimes, but they can significantly affect our health in the long run. 

You can follow these tips to avoid getting tired and save yourself from getting overtired.

1. Try to schedule your sleep time

Our body requires a routine for optimal performance. Planning our snooze can reduce sleep onset time and help us achieve the same amount of sleep every night. It also allows us to coordinate our sleep time with our circadian rhythm and enjoy refreshed mornings. 

2. Avoid caffeine at night

Caffeine causes wakefulness and alertness. It is imperative to avoid caffeine-based drinks in the evening for an early bedtime. 

3. Don’t exercise prior to bedtime

Exercise increases body temperature and blood flow while you need a cooler body to initiate sleep. Experts recommend exercising in late afternoon but not within three hours to bedtime. However, you can do light yoga for relaxation as part of your bedtime ritual.

4. Have your meal three hours before bedtime

Eating before bed is a bad idea as our metabolism is slow. It can lead to weight gain. You can also experience acid reflux if you sleep on a full stomach.

5. Don’t use your gadgets in bed

Phones and electronic devices stimulate the brain and also inhibit the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. 

6. Pay your sleep debt

Add up one hour each night, to cover up the sleep loss, over a period of time. Proper sleep causes your mind, body, and soul to recover from fatigue and stress.

father and child napping

In Babies

It is difficult to handle an overtired baby as they are unable to communicate their feelings effectively. This is why they become irritable and cry inconsolably at the onset of sleep.

An overtired child can soon become a sleep-deprived one, leading to a multitude of behavioral issues. But you can use these easy and useful tips to prevent overtiredness in your babies. 

1. Have a consistent sleep schedule

Regular and consistent sleep schedules are crucial for babies’ physical and cognitive development. It also improves body coordination and mitigates the chances of hyperactivity and irritability.

2. Rely on daytime naps

Daytime naps are necessary until the age of two and a half. They help babies settle down for the night comfortably. Naps also boost sleep-assisted growth. 

3. Begin sleep rituals half an hour before bed

Cortisol, the stress hormone, makes it difficult for your child to sleep properly. If the levels are high, the body won’t be able to shut down. It’s advisable to opt for calmer activities, quieter environments, and dim light settings prior to bedtime.

4. Avoid unnecessary naps in older children

Older children require 9-11 hours of sleep each day. Avoid daytime naps to encourage early bedtime as a good night’s sleep is highly therapeutic.

5. Identify their wake windows

Children after six months of age have a set circadian rhythm which ensures a regular sleep and wake up time. Identify the signs of sleepiness and put them to bed for self-soothing. It makes them sleep independently both at night and during the day.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Most of us know getting a good night’s sleep is vital for our well-being. But our sleep needs change as we age. The following chart shows the recommended sleep hours for children, teenagers, and adults:

Overtiredness can be a potential threat to anyone’s health. It can affect our cognitive skills, override our emotions, and hamper kids’ developmental stages. The only way out is to identify the signs of overtiredness and avoid it altogether.

However, life happens, and there are stressful situations that can lead to an overtired mind and body. But there is a solution for that too! 

A good night's sleep can be an effective way to relax and rejuvenate. We hope these tips will help you wind down easily and revitalize your body for the next day ahead.

 
Dustin Morgan

Dustin Morgan


Dustin is the lead content creator at SleePare. With a degree in Computer Science and extensive experience reviewing mattresses, curating comparisons and advising on "best of" guides, he's truly a mattress technology expert.

Dustin has perfected this method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he's not only able to discern the overall value of a specific bed, but to assign its value to different types of sleepers.

Along with creating honest and straightforward mattress features, Dustin enjoys creating pieces aimed at helping people get their best sleep ever.

When he's not creating helpful content, Dustin enjoys jogging, fishing, hunting and playing video games in and around his Virginia home.