Confusing Tired with Naughty?

This happened to me today: my three year old son was super wired this morning. Properly hyperactive, seemingly out of control of his body and unable to stop racing about laughing maniacly, pushing his little sister over or throwing my phone across the room several times. He was like a ferret when we were out shopping, disappearing several times and unable to stay focused. Once home, he was so wired he was unable to sit still for his lunch and ran around happily throwing things in my face instead.

I checked the back of his apple juice cartons to see if there was anything in them that was causing it.

It was only 11.45, over an hour before his regular 1pm naptime, but we went upstairs. He used a few stalling tactics of milk and needing a Blaze car, but when I checked on him at 12, he was fast asleep.

I had made the rookie mistake of confusing my son’s giddy behaviour with ‘naughtiness’ rather than what it was: exhaustion. He had a broken night last night as my daughter is teething and we have thin walls, but he’d slept until 7amish so I thought we had things covered. ERROR ERROR!

Behaviour is SO linked to sleep. A child without enough sleep will struggle to process information properly, follow even simple instructions and they’ll have a shortened attention span. They’ll also find it hard to manage their impulses.

A TV investigation into sleep and behaviour amongst two groups of adolescents showed that the group who could go to bed when they wanted and watch TV/screens without restriction found it increasingly difficult to sit still and concentrate during the day because their brains were provoking foot jiggling and fidgeting to keep them awake. Teens that had an appropriate bedtime with a cut-off for TV/screens didn’t experience this at all.

That’s why it’s so important that we respond swiftly to our child’s sleep cues, even if they’re not obvious, to avoid slipping into this hyper overtired zone. So many of my clients say to me: but they’re so active all day on so little sleep, I don’t know where they get their energy from. It’s so easy to put wired or ‘bad’ behaviour down to their personalities – and in a way it is: this is their coping mechanism for when one of their foundations is wonky. Think about it: children rely on adrenaline – the evil twin to the sleep hormone, melatonin – when they’re overtired, and adrenaline is the stress hormone.

So if your child is acting differently, if they’re more wired than usual or more sensitive, have a think about their sleep: have they had some unsettled nights? Did they conk out at bedtime but wake up at 5? Keep things mellow if this is happening and focus on minimising overtiredness as much as you can by adjusting their nap and bringing bedtime forward. Focus on their sleep for the next week to get things back on track.

Has wired behaviour been going on for a while? Get in touch for some help and advice that will see you all having happier days and snoozy nights.

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