Figuring out how much sleep your child needs can be confusing. There are many different tables and graphs out there that show you how much sleep your child should be getting within a 24 hour period, but the fact is they can all be different! We usually say to use the recommended sleep charts as a guide as no two children are the same! (see our chart below) This means that some children need a little more sleep and some need slightly less. Try not to let the number on the chart be your one and only tool. Balance is the key-go a little bit with the charts but also go with how your child is behaving and the signs that they may be showing you. Here are some of the more common signs that your child may not be getting enough sleep:
1: Randomly falling asleep
If on a regular basis from day to day, your child is falling asleep randomly throughout the day at various times, this could be one sign that they are not getting the right amount of sleep. Of course, if it happens only occasionally or during a nap transition, that is nothing to be concerned about and is common in those cases.
If your child is falling asleep while playing or is regularly falling asleep at the lunch or dinner table, this is an indication that they might be going to bed too late. It could be as simple as a need for a tweak in their schedule to help them have that sleep in their own beds or in a quiet, non-stimulating dark room.
Some children may fall asleep during meals when they are going through a nap transition (Ex: Going down to 1 nap from 2 they might be a bit tired for a while, especially if they weren’t quite ready yet. But this should only last a week or two.
If they are giving up naps altogether, they may be tired and more likely to fall asleep in the car if you go for a drive in the later afternoon. Again, this should only be temporary and a part of the transition. (Read more about transitions here)
2: Constantly showing tired signs
If your child is always looking exhausted and seems to be yawning all day long with a glazed over look, chances are that they are lacking a little bit of sleep.
Here are more signs your child is tired:
- If your child ‘looks’ exhausted all of the time (bags under their eyes, zoning out)
- they are not sleeping well during the day (short naps, not enough naps)
- are waking up frequently throughout the night or early in the morning
This is a great time to start working on their sleep and a solid routine to help them achieve healthy sleep!
3: Excessive meltdowns
For toddlers especially, one of the most common signs of the need for more sleep is when they have excessive meltdowns all of the time. We do expect toddlers to have some big emotions throughout the day however, if your little one is melting down dozens of times a day, they might be more tired than just going through the toddler years.
Whining all day long and being really clingy all of the time can also be another sign. Babies do go through phases where they have peaks in separation anxiety, which is different than a child who is struggles for weeks on end or longer with being separated from their main care provider and never wants to be put down without big upsets.
4: ‘Off’ Behaviour
If your child seems to have constant frustration – as mentioned above- beyond the regular toddler challenges and can’t seem to cope with everyday challenges and seems beyond frustrated or angry about everything, that is a good sign that they need more sleep. As your child is learning to test their limits, there is going to be some normal ‘off’ behaviour but for that child who is angry and seems frustrated all of the time, encouraging more sleep is a great first step.
While caring for children during our child care days, our experience was that those children who were sleep deprived were quick to get frustrated, hit more frequently and they wouldn’t play with the toys but instead walk around aimlessly. Sleep deprivation does affect how a child will handle typical childhood situations and how they learn to play.
5: And finally.. the sleep recommendation charts:
If your child is way off of the recommended hours of sleep. For example, if they are only getting ¾ of their sleep totals or if sleep is very broken, even if they are not showing many of the signs mentioned above and seem content most of the time, they are most likely not getting adequate sleep. We know how important sleep is for development and growth and working towards more overall sleep will make a difference.
Not sure how much sleep your child needs? Check out this post for our sleep chart.
The good news is, if your little one has not been getting the sleep that they need up to this point, there is no need to worry. It is never too late to recognize the need to help your little one sleep and to start working on it! If you think that your child may be missing out on some very important sleep, contact us for an evaluation and a free 15 minute chat to find out how we can help. Making the transition to healthier and more sleep for the whole family is made easier with support and guidance from Restful Parenting. If you are tired of being tired, of waking all hours of the night, not getting any breaks during the day or of just never knowing what sleep that night is going to bring, contact us. We would love to hear from you!