Is Drowsy but Awake Real?


Mar 16, 2023

What does “drowsy but awake” even mean? Can you even be drowsy but awake? Why are these two concepts just not matching? Why can’t you get them to work when the rest of the baby world and sleep world and Instagram world insists it’s best?

In my world, “drowsy but awake” is not real and today we’re going to talk ALL about it.


Today I’m going to tell you why I do NOT teach “drowsy but awake” when it comes to sleep training. It is not ever a part of our vocabulary at Little Z’s when you’re trying to teach your baby to sleep all night long. I’ll tell you the ONE time I do use this phrase, but otherwise it’s never part of our philosophy here.

Before we dive in, I want to give you a plan: my 4 Steps to Solve Night Wakings. You’ll get my 4 steps to help your baby sleep all night long (and it has nothing to do with being drowsy but awake!) You can begin this TONIGHT – it takes less than 30 minutes to listen to all the videos & start implementing the strategies right away.


In the world of baby sleep – in books, Instagram, different platforms – you’ll hear people say “After bedtime routine, help your baby become drowsy but awake…” and then that’s it, there’s nothing. And you’re like What!?

The thought is you help the baby get heavy-eyed, but still awake because they’re not fully asleep… “drowsy but awake.”

You help them get sleepy – but not fully asleep – so that they fall asleep on the bed and not on you.

Here’s my beef: You can’t be both drowsy and awake at the same time. Drowsy and awake are opposite things.

When we sleep, we go through different stages or cycles of sleep (you may have heard of the REM cycle, for example). 

Drowsiness is the FIRST step into your sleep cycle. It’s when your body becomes sleepy & you get ready to fall asleep. If you’ve ever jolted, feeling like you’re falling, that’s drowsiness. 

You can’t be drowsy (aka going to sleep) but also be awake!



Now, you WILL hear me say this during my Newborn Sleep Course. I will talk about drowsiness but awake. This is because newborns do not have mature sleep cycles like babies and toddlers (and you and I!) have. 

They only have TWO sleep cycles and there is a completely different way of teaching newborns and babies to sleep. So you will hear that in my course, and that applies, because you’ll help them get sleepy and then put them down as part of working with their newborn sleep cycles.

However, at 16 weeks, the 4-month regression, they’re developing their mature sleep cycles and now drowsiness is the ENEMY of sleep… because when a child gets drowsy using someone or something, that’s how they now believe they learn to fall asleep. They’re going to now depend on the caregiver, pacifier, rocking, or whatever it is to help them get sleepy.

So that means that when they wake up throughout the night, and they don’t know how to fall asleep without whoever or whatever they need to get drowsy, they’re going to call out looking for that person or thing to get them back to drowsiness again. 

That’s the problem with drowsiness but “not awake”. You can’t teach them to get drowsy but not sleepy.


No one goes to sleep and wakes up 12 hours later without any wake ups! But you and I have developed those skills and know how to put ourselves back to sleep.

That’s why I teach the Leave and Check and Stay in the Room methods in my sleep training programs, so that drowsiness happens when they’re in the crib.

After their bedtime routine, you will put them in the crib 100% wide awake and alert. Not drowsy.

They’ll learn to fall asleep at bedtime (and nap time) and all night long.

I’d love to hear from you: Have you been trying “drowsy but awake”? Are you frustrated by this? 

If you’re ready to stop trying to figure out “drowsy but awake” and you want step-by-step instructions for how to make sleep a thing, you can find my no-fluff sleep strategies inside my Baby Sleep Course here!! 

Sweet dreams!!



What does “drowsy but awake” even mean? Can you even be drowsy but awake? Why are these two concepts just not matching?

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