Sleep Cues

It's important to be aware of your baby's sleep cues so that you can put him to bed with perfectly timing--not too early and not too late. This will help him fall asleep more easily and stay asleep for longer periods of time.

Every baby is different and one baby's sleepy signs and overtired signs will differ from one another, but this list should help you

out while you are trying to figure out your individual baby's sleep signs.

Common Sleep Cues

Slight quieting, a lull in being busy, rooting or wanting to nurse, asking for a bottle, pacifier or lovey, a slight staring off, decreased activity, slower motion, less vocal, sucking is weaker or slower, quieter, calmer, disinterested in surroundings, eyes less focused, eyelids dropping, yawning, less movement of arms and legs, eyes that are not as sparkling or eyes that look "glazed over", eyelids that droops a little, less intense staring, less socially responsive smiling, less engaging, rubbing eyes, irritability, pulling hair, thumb sucking, bating at ears and crankiness.

A baby (especially a very young one) can go from sleepy to overtired very quickly so you need to act quick when you first notice your baby's sleepy cues. Ideally you will already be in the process of getting baby ready for sleep when you first notice sleep cues to prevent overtiredness. This is where having some sort of routine can be really helpful because you know when to anticipate sleep cues/tiredness.

Also, sleep cues can change over time, and it isn't too uncommon for them to disappear when your child gets older (although their overtired signs will probably still exist but may be more subtle). For example, my son Joshua would yawn all day when he was a newborn, not just when he was tired, so I wasn't able to use this as a sleep cue. When he was a few months old he would yawn when he was ready for a nap so this was useful as a sleep cue. At 12 months he would only yawn when he was extremely overtired or after I had already initiated his pre-sleep routine making the "yawn" no longer useful as a sleep cue. Some newborns also appear to take several weeks before they have notable sleep cues while other babies appear to never get any at all (although someone as experienced with babies as TBW might not agree with this).

Related Post:

Waketime Length


  1. I hope you don't mind me adding that some babies have no sleep cues or only show overtired cues. My son was always this way and his overtired signs are not what most people would recognize. When he is overtired he gets a second wind of sorts and suddenly becomes very active and excited. His eyes will be wide open, but eventually get this blank stare that I now recognize as the sign that it is too late, he is way overtired.

    It took me 9 weeks to sort out his sleep cues and even now at 7 months I often have to rely on the clock because by the time he shows sleep cues he is overtired and would fuss for a long time if I waited. But, if I watch the clock and put him down after exactly 2 hours he falls asleep quickly and easily and wakes up 1 hour, 45 minutes later happy as a clam.

  2. Thanks for the comment! That is true. I have also heard from several people that their babies that once showed sleepy cues stopped showing them as they got older, maybe 4 months or so. They then had to work mainly by the clock.

  3. What's a good awake time for a 18 week old (4months) we get usually 45-1 hr sleep then crying after 1.20 of waketime..she always goes down so easy that's why thought was good awake time. Babywise says 45 min nap are OT are they UT? Thanks!! Also do you think bad sleep this age connected with Wonder Week?

    1. Garrett and Denise Stone,
      Bad sleep any age can be connected to a wonder week, especially right now. But it can be due to lots more too.
      Check out this post for waketime length. You'll likely be around 1.5 hours

      Short naps can be due to ot and ut. But often they happen for no good reason. Look at this post for more...

  4. Hi
    I found you through goggle. Something I do a lot of these days, especially being a FTM.

    I hope you actually read these messages and respond. I'm having a big problem with the 45 min intruder.
    My DD is 3.5 months. She used to take 1 3hr nap a day in her crib and shorter ones (they may have been 45 mins but I never noticed, bc they'd be while we were out) I do eat/play/sleep. Since I stopped swaddling her almost a mobth ago... She started this... Or I noticed it bc she no longer had her long afternoon nap. As well as nighttime. She goes down like normal, than 45 mins later.

    I feel like I've tried everything I've read. Everyday or few is an experiment. I'm now sitting in her room waiting for that to happen so I automatically shush her back to sleep. But even that is a restless on and she's up in. Another 45,

    What has been working is becoming a bad habit. I can overcome this by nursing her in bed and allow her to fall asleep on her side with me. If I wait 1 hr she'll nap for 3 hrs. And at night sleep at least 5-6. However she has become restless in her sleep for about an hr or 2 before she wakes up. (Sleeps in pack n play beside my side) I'm happy to have a bandaid at moment but no this is not good long term. It's already hindering me from doing stuff in day or spending time with my husband.

    Please help and share your thoughts on this.

    Thank you,

    1. I wish someone would have responded to this comment.... this is my life right now and I feel so lost.

    2. I believe the answer is to replicate what IS working. Why is your child sleeping longer next to you? Does the child enjoy your warmth? Or is your room cooler? You could open or redirect an a/c vent or place a onesie below their pj. Does the child like your rythmic breathing? Place a sound machine next to their crib. How is the child sleeping with you, on their back, side, stomach? You can roll up towels and place along their back to prop them on their side. If your child holds on to you, your clothing or hair, give them a lovely they can grasp instead. Try wearing the lovely for a couple of hours for a few days so it smells like you and the child will enjoy it more. Also buy more than one so there's a backup when one is washing or gets lost or so you can have more than one on hand (in the car or at grandma's). Babies are really all about cues, you have to pay attention to read them and no two babies are the same.

  5. What should I do if my 7 weeks old never wakes up completely for his feed and is sleepy after it and I don't seem to be able to wake him up completely? Should I put him down? Sometimes he will wake up after I put him down.

    But today I left him alone since it was already one hour after I woke him up and he finally settled himself down to sleep.

    But is it bad? Maybe he is not getting enough wake time? That has happened with two naps in a row today. Thanks for any advice!

    1. If your baby is gaining weight like he should, I would use the phrase "never wake a sleeping baby". Now if his sleep schedule conflits with your schedule (sleeps all day, plays all night) then slowly keep him awake 30 minutes longer before his next nap until the schedule regulates.

  6. I am trying to master the waketime for naps. Of course it changes throughout the day. But once I see signs of tiredness I start the routine of going to her quiet room and swaddling. I hold her and she starts to drift off. We do this for about 15 minutes total. I want to put her down before she sleeps so she can put herself to sleep but once I put her in the crib she becomes more alert. I know in your post that you said you don't want to put down a baby who will play too much before bed. She drifts to sleep in about 15 minutes of playing in crib. Is this too long a time? Should I wait longer in the waketime before starting wind down even though she is showing tired signs? Oh yeah she is 3 months.