Putting your baby on the right schedule can do wonders for your baby’s sleep. But, babies change so fast and it’s hard to figure out the right schedule. As a sleep consultant for over 13 years, I’m sharing appropriate wake windows by age in this article. Use this chart to help set your baby’s wake windows, get onto a good schedule, and, hopefully, solve some of your sleep problems!
What is a Wake Window?
A “wake window” is the amount of time your baby is awake between sleep periods, either their next nap or bedtime. I count a wake window from when the time the baby wakes up to the next time they fall asleep. Even if you don’t get your baby up for 15 minutes, I recommend you use the time they actually woke up to set your next sleep period.
For example, if your baby wakes up at 7:00 AM and has a wake window of two hours, they should be asleep BY 9:00 AM.
Why Do Wake Windows Matter?
Have you ever been so tired that you can’t sleep? You feel restless and on edge. This is because our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue and give us a “second wind.”
Babies go through the same thing and when they are awake too long, they can’t fall asleep, cry, or seem to fight sleep. Or, they fall asleep but wake up a lot because they can’t seem to get settled. Many times, babies will wake up and cry a lot for several hours, and then they might get into a deeper sleep.
If babies aren’t awake long enough, they may take short naps. Although short naps are more commonly caused by a baby being overtired by being awake too long, there are some babies who take short naps due to under-tiredness.
Getting your baby’s wake windows correct will usually help your baby nap longer, sleep better at night, and not wake up too early in the morning.
Newborn Wake Windows
Newborns can’t stay awake for long periods of time so they have short wake windows. Your newborn’s schedule should reflect very short awake periods in the beginning. Most of the time, newborns will only be awake long enough to eat and get a diaper change before you need to put them back to sleep. Therefore, a newborn’s wake window is often just 45-60 minutes.
Newborns are taking in a lot of information and so much is new to them. Life in the outside world is very stimulating and they are also growing very quickly so they need a lot of sleep. The most notable thing about newborns, in the beginning, is that they often have days and nights confused. But, don’t worry! Your newborn will sort out their days and nights within a couple of weeks. As your baby reaches 6-8 weeks old, they can begin to stay awake for 1-2 hours at a time.
Are Wake Windows The Same All Day?
Have you noticed your baby seems really sleepy first thing in the morning but then stays awake longer later in the day? If so, you’re not alone and it’s actually very common!
Although it’s counter-intuitive, the first wake window is often one of the shortest of the day. This seems backward since they just slept all night, right? However, babies often get sleepy again soon in the morning and have longer awake periods later in the day.
In addition, many babies have their shortest wake window first thing in the morning and again right before bed. For example, a 4-month-old might stay awake 90 minutes before the first nap, then stay awake 2 hours before the other naps, and then 90 minutes before bedtime. Since the last nap of the day is often a catnap, consider it a short “bridge” to bedtime.
On the other hand, if your baby is very consistent and stays awake a consistent amount of time throughout the day, that’s also normal. A 6-month-old might stay awake two hours before each sleep period all day. If this is the case, consider yourself lucky that you have a predictable routine. It’s also normal!
All babies are different so it’s okay and even encouraged, to customize your baby’s schedule to follow their natural pattern.
Wake Windows Chart – From Newborn to 5 Years Old
Babies go through many changes throughout the first few years especially when it comes to sleep. There are a number of sleep regressions and schedule changes. Be sure to download one of our free e-Books to help your baby sleep better.
As far as how long your baby should be awake, here is a chart with wake windows by age. However, be sure to use the overtired signs to determine if they are too long for your unique baby.
Average Wake Windows By Age
I hope this chart has helped you decide on the wake windows that are best for your baby or toddler. If you need any help, please feel free to contact us today!
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