It’s no secret that your child’s ideal awake windows and daily schedule highly depends on their age.
In fact, age-appropriate wake windows are FOUNDATIONAL to your child’s ever evolving nap schedule.
But when it comes to wake windows, sometimes it can feel like there is a mysterious, magical rule when it comes to honoring them!
Do you begin the wake window when your child’s eyes open? Or when they begin dozing in and out of sleep? Or when you get them out of their crib?
And on top of that, timing a newborn’s wake window is different than timing a baby’s wake window!
In this YouTube video, I’m going to teach you how to accurately time your child’s awake window (no matter their age) so that their daily routines and schedule are as seamless as possible.
When it comes to wake windows, let’s first talk about “sleep pressure.”
“Sleep Pressure” is a real term in relation to the science of our sleep.
Dr. William Dement, founder of the National Sleep Foundation, coined this term to help us understand how children and adults are ready for sleep.
When you and I as adults wake up in the morning, our bodies need to be awake for the day in order to sleep at night.
When we are awake during the day, think of every hour you’re awake being represented by one brick you place in a backpack you’re wearing.
By the end of the day, that’s a pretty heavy pack! It’s time to unload, and sleep it off.
That’s called sleep pressure!
You needed a certain amount of sleep pressure to feel the tipping point of needing to go to sleep again.
The same is true for your child.
Although of course, their load is much lighter!
The amount of awake time (known as their awake window) that your child needs before going to sleep again highly depends on their age.
Next, let’s talk about awake windows.
Whether you’ve officially sleep trained your child or not, you are likely here because you have been struggling with awake windows.
First, let’s quickly define what an awake window is.
An awake window (or wake window) is simply the time between awakening and sleeping.
Some examples of wake windows are:
As you begin to learn your child’s routine or schedule more, you’re probably tossing around questions like, “When do I begin timing my child’s wake window? When do I put them into their crib? When do I wake them up?”
First, it’s important to know that awake windows can be placed into two categories:
Newborn wake windows (0-3 months of age)
Baby wake windows. (4-16 months of age)
Simply put, when it comes to timing an awake window, it’s going to depend on your child’s age.
If you feel lost when it comes to knowing your child’s ideal wake window length, then I want you to check out our COMPLETE SCHEDULE GUIDE HERE.
This guide provides you with every schedule you will need for your child from age 0-3 years old.
Your child’s sleep needs are constantly evolving and our complete schedule guide will provide you with the confidence you need when it comes to building, maintaining and adjusting your child’s sleep schedule.
A newborn’s awake window is going to be timed differently than a baby’s awake window.
Newborns can only handle being awake for a total of 45-60 minutes.
A newborn awake window begins when they open their eyes.
That means as soon as your newborn wakes up in the morning or after a nap, and you see that their eyes are opened on the monitor, you will begin timing their next awake window.
Your newborn’s awake window is very small and it INCLUDES the time it takes to feed them and their nap or bedtime routine.
That means that you might get your newborn up, feed them for 20-40 minutes, change their diaper, swaddle them, sing their song, and put them right back down for their nap!
The wake window will end when you place your little one back into their crib.
When the awake window is over (45-60 minutes), you should be placing your newborn into their bassinet or crib.
Since a newborn’s wake window is so small, this also means that your newborn doesn’t need an hour+ length nap for every nap of the day!
Some short naps at this age are common, and they aren’t considered “junk naps”.
However…a whole day of 20-30 minute naps can be very frustrating!
>>> Eventually, your little one will need longer, more restorative naps and I address strategies for extending naps and accommodating these short newborn awake windows in our Newborn Sleep Course HERE!<<<
Once your little one is 16+ weeks old, they have graduated from “newborn-hood” and are now considered a baby!
For a baby, their awake window starts when you pick them up and get them out of their crib.
It does not begin when they open their eyes.
That’s because newborns and babies have different tolerances when it comes to awake time.
A newborn has a very small awake window and can become very quickly overstimulated and overtired.
Babies, on the other hand, can have much larger awake windows.
A baby’s wake window can span anywhere from 90 minutes at 4 months old up to 5.5 hours for a 16 month old!
Beginning your baby’s awake window when they are taken out of the crib instead of when their eyes open will prevent them from taking habitually short naps and/or waking early in the morning.
This is especially important if your child wakes up at 5:30AM and is ready for the day!
Do not start their day at 5:30AM.
Often times when you count the time awake in the crib, you may be missing out on times when your child is “dozing off” between 5:30-6:30AM (even for a moment!).
Dozing and drowsiness is a part of the sleep process and counts toward their total sleep opportunity and by shortening their awake window, you are compromising the legnth of their next sleep opportunity.
***If your baby is currently waking early in the morning (between 4-6AM), I want to point you to my Early Morning Waking Course HERE.*** In this course, I help you to determine what is causing your child’s early morning wakings and how to solve them!
Measuring your baby’s wake windows accurately is EXTREMELY helpful when you are trying to end their short nap cycle.
Many times, a child is in a “short nap” cycle because their awake window is beginning when their eyes open instead of when they are taken out of their crib.
Measuring an awake window inaccurately rewards the short nap with an even shorter awake window.
Maybe, you waited and gave your child the opportunity to fall back asleep for 20 minutes before getting them up.
Your child didn’t end up falling back asleep, So you get them up.
Since they’ve been “awake” for 20 minutes already, rolling around in their crib, you shorten their next wake window.
This type of thinking actually short changes your child’s next awake window, causing them to take another short nap since they weren’t awake for a long enough amount of time before needing to sleep again.
The same principal holds true for early morning wakings.
Don’t reward your child’s early morning waking with an earlier morning nap.
Instead, measure your baby’s wake window from when they are taken out of their crib, regardless of when their eyes opened.
At the end of the day, every newborn, baby and toddler has a unique schedule!
Honoring your child’s schedule means that you can achieve nap success and a more restful night of sleep.
If you still need help identifying age-appropriate awake windows and a daytime schedule for your child, check out my Free Schedule Generator HERE.
Along with my free schedule generator, I also want to point you to my Complete Schedule Guide HERE, where you can find every schedule for your child from 0 to 3 years of age.
This complete schedule guide will provide you with the confidence you need as you support and care for your child and their ever-changing sleep needs as they grow.
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Do wake windows end when baby is placed in the crib or when they fall asleep? Should the 10-15 mins it takes baby to fall asleep be deducted from their wake window?
Awake windows start when you get them out of the crib (for babies over 4 months). The 10 minutes it takes to fall asleep just falls in that nap time! Example, baby at 8 months needs 2.5 hours awake before Nap 1. Wake at 7AM, in crib for Nap 1 at 9:30AM, falls asleep within 10 minutes.
What if the wake window is 1.5 hours and they wake up from nap 3 of 4 and there’s only 3 hours between that had bedtime?
Hi Amanda! In this case I would do an on-the-go option a bit at the 1.5 hour mark for 15-20 minutes, then do 1.5 hours until bedtime. WIth 4 naps per day we won’t have a set bedtime juuuuust yet!