As a parent, you may think that there is nothing worse than your child being so tired they will not sleep. Just because your child is resisting going to sleep does not necessarily mean they’re “overtired.” A fussy baby could also be “undertired.”
It may come as a surprise, but overtired and undertired babies are actually very hard to differentiate. While they can display these poor sleep patterns similarly, it’s important to know which one your baby really is so you can properly remedy the issue. To help you better understand, we break down the similarities and differences of overtired vs. undertired.
Overtired vs. Undertired Similarities
Obviously, both of these issues revolve around sleep, and both overtiredness and undertiredness can have lasting effects on your child. The younger the child, the more sensitive their circadian rhythm. If this rhythm is even slightly put off balance, their growth and learning can suffer.
As both overtiredness and undertiredness throw off a sleep schedule, they often display similarly. Both an overtired baby and an undertired baby will cry, a lot, even when they’re not hungry. Also, whether your child is undertired or overtired, they will wake very early in the morning and rarely go back to sleep. This not only shortens what would be a healthy amount of sleep, it also negatively impacts their, and your, entire schedule for the day. Right before bedtime and naptime is when overtired and undertired babies demonstrate another similarity. Both overtired and undertired babies will resist settling before bedtime, so if you don’t pay attention to how they are resisting, you may not know if they need more or less sleep.
Overtired vs. Undertired Differences
Unfortunately, when trying to avoid a child not sleeping enough (overtired), it is easy to overcompensate, creating an undertired baby. To avoid babies getting overtired, many parents put their children to bed TOO early. So these sleep issues, while different, affect each other.
As we stated, both overtired and undertired babies resist settling before bedtime. Luckily for you, how they resist is different, so that may help you determine which they are. An overtired child will be extremely energized right before bed. An undertired child, however, will resist by crying and fighting.
Behaviors during naptime are also where overtired and undertired babies begin to show key differences. When a child is overtired, they will take extremely long naps, and it’s very difficult to wake them up from these daytime slumbers. When a child is undertired, however, they will be very restless during naptime, and they will wake up frequently.
Lastly, other than waking early in the morning, undertired children don’t typically show many symptoms during the daytime. When a child is overtired, they express daytime irritability as well as lack of concentration during the day.
Do you have experience with an overtired or undertired baby? Tell us about it in the comments!