Wake Windows By Age: Helping Your Baby Sleep Better
Looking for a better, easier way to help your baby sleep? Discover their wake windows by age.
Setting up a sleep schedule that works for you and your little one can be a challenging and confusing thing to figure out. But with the help of wake windows, you’ll have a better idea of when it’s time to put your baby down for a nap or for the night.
In this article, we’ll explore wake windows by age and discuss ways you can use these time ranges to give your little one the best sleep possible.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Wake Windows?
- The Importance Of Wake Windows
- Recommended Wake Windows By Age
- Finding The Right Wake Windows
What Are Wake Windows?
A wake window is the range of time that a baby or toddler is awake between naps or before going down for the night. More than that, a wake window is the amount of time doctors recommend that your little one can spend awake before becoming overtired.
Counting time for a wake window starts when you get your baby out of their crib, bassinet, or toddler bed and includes everything that happens until you lay them down again.
So, for example, if your newborn wakes up from a good night’s sleep at 7 a.m. and you get them up for a feeding, the wake window starts then. After the feeding, you might give them a bath and enjoy a bit of playtime together until you notice them getting sleepy again at 8 a.m.
That hour between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. is one of many 60-minute wake windows for your child throughout the day.
After their 8 a.m. rest, they’ll be up for another hour before going back down for another nap. That cycle of a wake window followed by a nap repeats throughout the day until bedtime and looks something like this:
7:00 a.m.: Wake, eat, play
8:00 a.m.: Nap
9:30 a.m.: Wake, eat, go for a walk
10:30 a.m.: Nap
11:30 a.m.: Wake, eat, play
12:30 p.m.: Nap
2:00 p.m.: Wake, eat, go for a walk
3:00 p.m.: Nap
4:00 p.m.: Wake, eat, play
5:00 p.m.: Nap
7:00 p.m.: Wake, eat, play
8:00 p.m.: Bedtime
Keep in mind that this schedule is just for illustration purposes. Though their wake windows by age will be fairly consistent (60 minutes in the example above), every baby will nap for different amounts of time and be ready for bed at a different hour of the night.
As we’ll discuss later in this article, the key is to find what works for you and your little one.
The Importance Of Wake Windows
Many new parents ask, “Why are wake windows important?”
As we mentioned earlier in this article, a wake window is the amount of time your newborn, baby, or toddler can spend awake before becoming overtired.
So, a wake window that is too long can cause your baby to become overtired. And an overtired baby often struggles to calm down enough to fall asleep or, once there, stay asleep for any beneficial amount of time.
On the other side of the coin, a wake window that is too short can result in a baby who isn’t ready to fall asleep and may only take a tiny catnap before wanting to get up again.
But when you find just the right wake windows by age — not too long and not too short — you’ll set your little one up to fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer, and experience better, more restful sleep overall.
Recommended Wake Windows By Age
Below, we’ve listed the recommended wake windows by age that will help you determine how long your child can stay awake without getting overtired and how frequently they should be sleeping.
0-4 weeks: 35 to 60 minutes
4-12 weeks: 60 to 90 minutes
3-4 months: 75 to 120 minutes
5-7 months: 2 to 3 hours
7-10 months: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
11-14 months: 3 to 4 hours
14-24 months: 4 to 6 hours
Every baby is different, so no two sleep schedules will be exactly the same. Similarly, no two babies will have the exact same wake window.
Your four-week-old may stay awake a bit longer than 60 minutes or be ready for a nap after only 30 minutes awake.
Use these recommended wake windows by age as a general guideline to help you find the schedule that works for your little one.
Finding The Right Wake Windows
1) Start With The Recommended Wake Windows By Age
Creating a beneficial sleep schedule for your baby can be a hit-or-miss activity. But, with the recommended wake windows by age listed in the previous section, you’ll have a better idea of where to start.
For example, let’s say you want to get your eight-week-old baby on a more consistent schedule. You find that their wake window range is 60 to 90 minutes.
Remember, though, that these numbers are just a recommendation and that your little one may need less or more time awake than the 60 to 90 minutes listed above.
That’s why the next two steps in finding the right wake window for your baby are so important.
2) Watch The Length And Quality Of Your Baby’s Naps
So, let’s say that your newborn has been awake for 75 minutes, and you decide to put them down for a nap. Take note of the length and quality of their nap.
If they only nap for a short time (say, 15 to 20 minutes) and their sleep is fitful, they may need more time awake (closer to the 90-minute mark) in order to tire themselves out.
If, on the other hand, they nap for a long time (an hour and a half or more), they may need less time awake (closer to the 60-minute mark) so that they’re not so tired.
Watching the length and quality of your baby’s naps is a helpful way to gauge whether you’ve found the right wake window. Use it in conjunction with the next step to really dial in your little one’s sleep schedule.
3) Look For Baby’s Sleep Cues
Observing your baby’s sleep cues is another easy and effective way to determine wake windows by age and when it’s time for a nap.
If your eight-week-old becomes cranky and begins struggling to stay awake 70 minutes after their nap, their wake window may be 60 or 65 minutes.
If your newborn is alert, happy, and active 75 minutes after their nap, their wake window may be 90 minutes or more.
With these three pieces of information — recommended wake windows by age, length and quality of naps, and baby’s sleep cues — you’ll be able to more accurately determine how long your little one can stay awake before it’s time for another nap.
It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right habits, but the results are well worth the effort.
4) Maintain A Pre-Nap Routine
As you transition your child into a sleep schedule based on the wake windows by age discussed in the article, do your best to maintain a consistent pre-nap routine.
Such a routine has predictable steps that you and your little one perform whenever it’s time for a nap.
For example, your routine may consist of the following steps:
- Head into the bedroom
- Change their diaper
- Sit in the rocking chair
- Read a book
- Close the curtains
- Turn on the white noise machine
- Turn out the light
- Place them in their crib or bed
As with finding your little one’s wake windows by age, settling into a good pre-nap routine may take a bit of trial and error. But, again, the results — better, more consistent sleep — are well worth the effort.
Help Your Baby Sleep Better
Wake windows by age are a valuable ally in helping your baby sleep better. Follow the tips in this article to find the time range that works best for them. And don’t forget to adjust as your baby grows!
Give your little one the best chance to sleep well by keeping them comfy and cozy come nap time or bedtime by stocking up on soft pajamas and safe, soothing baby products, like baby oil and Mustela Soothing Chest Rub.
Soon, your baby — and your entire family — will enjoy restful nights and happy, energized days!