Wake Windows by Age: How to Encourage Longer & Better Sleep Periods for Your Little One
A good sleep routine for your little one goes a long way when it comes to both your and your baby’s well-being. There is no right or wrong way to set up your child’s sleep schedule but there are some tried, tested, and true strategies that you can explore to figure out what works best for you and your little one. Using wake windows as a guide for how long your little one should be kept awake between sleep periods is one method you can use to regulate your child’s daily sleep routine. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a wake window is and why they’re so important and effective. We’ll also provide a helpful breakdown of wake windows by age that you can reference as your little one grows older. Are you ready to dive into the wonderful world of wake windows? Let’s begin!
Table of Contents
- What is a wake window?
- Are wake windows important?
- Wake Windows by Age: Newborn Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 3 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 4 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 5 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 7 - 10 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 11 - 13 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 15 - 18 Month Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 18 Month - 2 Year Old Wake Windows
- Wake Windows by Age: 3 - 5 Year Old Wake Windows
- How do I know if wake windows are right for my baby?
- How to identify your baby’s sleep cues
- Wake window transitions
What is a wake window?
Here’s the good news: the wake window concept is very simple! A wake window is simply the amount of time that your baby stays awake between sleep periods. Many parents structure their little one’s day around consistent baby wake windows. The length of these waking periods changes as your child gets older but the concept remains the same.
If you’re wondering what signals the beginning of the wake period, we recommend marking the beginning of your child’s wake period as the time they get out of their bed, crib, or bassinet. Conversely, you can mark the end of the wake period as the time you put them down for their next nap even if they don’t fall asleep right away.
Are wake windows important?
Now that you know what baby wake windows are, you might be wondering just how important they are to your child’s sleep habits. Every child is different but many parents find that establishing and sticking to a consistent period of waking time between naps can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy routine and may even result in longer and better sleep for your child.
You might be wondering why that is. As adults, many of us have experienced the feeling of being ‘overtired’. It’s the incredibly frustrating experience of being so exhausted but, at the same time, feeling wired, wide awake, and, as a result, unable to fall asleep. It turns out that there is actually a physiological reason for why this happens. When you start to feel tired but choose to stay up, your body releases a series of hormones to try and combat the fatigue. These hormones are responsible for the ‘second wave’ of energy we sometimes get after we experience fatigue. The same thing happens to your little one if they stay awake for too long. This is why wake periods for babies are so important. They prevent your little one from becoming so overtired that they’re unable to sleep when it’s time to go down for a nap.
Wake Windows by Age: Newborn Wake Windows
Recommended time: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Newborns need a lot of sleep to give their bodies the rest they need to maintain healthy growth and development. Additionally, their new surroundings are highly stimulating and they are absorbing a lot of new information when they are awake. So, it’s best to keep the time between naps short for your little one so they don’t get overwhelmed or overtired. We recommend sticking to 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Wake Windows by Age: 3 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time: 1 - 2 hours
Once your baby reaches 3 months of age, it’s probably time to begin extending their window to 1 - 2 hours.
Wake Windows by Age: 4 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 1.5 - 2.5 hours
By 4 months of age, if it feels right for you and your baby you can begin to extend their window again to around 1.5 - 2.5 hours.
Wake Windows by Age: 5 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 2 - 2.5 hours
By 5 months of age, you can begin to extend your child’s wake period again. Aim for 2 - 2 ½ hour stretches between sleep periods.
Wake Windows by Age: 7 - 10 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 2 - 3 hours
If your child is giving you cues that they are ready to extend their window again, a gradual increase to a 2 - 3 hour window during the 7 to 10-month-old period is recommended.
Wake Windows by Age: 11 - 13 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 3- 4 hours
Over the next three months, gradually increase your little one’s wake period again to 3 - 4 hours.
Wake Windows by Age: 15 - 18 Month Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 5 hours
Once your little one has transitioned to one nap a day, aim for a wake period of around 5 hours.
Wake Windows by Age: 18 Month - 2 Year Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 6 hours
By 18 months, your little one should be able to handle a 6-hour wake period and one nap a day.
Wake Windows by Age: 3 - 5 Year Old Wake Windows
Recommended time - 6-7 hours if napping
If your child is still napping, aim for a wake period of 6 - 7 hours. If your child is no longer napping, a 12 - 13 hour wake window is recommended.
How do I know if wake windows are right for my baby?
Like many things in parenting, there is no one right way to create a sleep schedule. You know your baby best and should trust your instincts when it comes to what is and what is not working for you and your little one. If you’re wondering whether or not infant wake windows are right for your baby, there are a few things you can look out for.
If you’re finding that your nap and bedtime routines are going smoothly and your little one is not fussing too much when you put them down, that’s a great sign that whatever you’re doing is working! If your little one is taking longer naps and sleeping more soundly, that’s also a great indication that your sleep schedule and routines are functioning well.
It’s also important to recognize that even if you’ve set up a great sleep schedule and a solid nap and bedtime routine, there will still be nights when things don’t go as planned. From growth spurts to teething and everything in between, your little one’s body is going through a lot of changes in the first few years of life, and sleep disruptions are bound to happen. So, don’t get too freaked out if your baby has a restless night from time to time. If you’ve laid a strong foundation things are sure to get back on track in no time.
How to identify your baby’s sleep cues
The recommended baby wake windows by age provided above are a great starting point,but it’s important to remember that every baby is different. So, if the recommended wake windows by age don’t seem to be working for your little one, you can keep an eye out for their sleep cues instead. Sleep cues are simply signals that your child is beginning to feel fatigued and is probably ready for their next nap or to go down for the night. This is a great indication that it’s time to end the wake window and get your baby to bed before they become overtired. What are some sleep cues you should keep an eye out for? We’re so glad you asked, here’s a list of some common sleep cues:
- A dazed look or droopy eyelids
- Back arching
- Refusal to eat
- Rubbing of eyes or ears
Wake window transitions
Many parents who use wake windows have a hard time determining when it’s time to extend their little one’s window. Here are a few signs your kid is ready for a longer window:
- Your baby is waking up early from naps
- Your baby is taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep for naps and at bedtime
- Your baby is waking up earlier than usual in the morning
Wake windows are a great way to help regulate your baby’s sleep schedule. With a little trial-and-error, you and your little one will find the right rhythm and routine for you. Remember, every child is different and it’s all about trusting your instincts and learning to read your baby's cues. If wake windows work for you, that’s great! If not, we have plenty of other tips and tricks to help you along the way. Sweet dreams!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You might be surprised to learn that it’s very common for babies to be sleepier in the morning than in the afternoon. This is counterintuitive for most parents. One would think that after a night of rest your baby's wake window would be longer but this is rarely the case. So, you may need to not only adjust your wake windows by age but also by time of day. Try shorter wake windows in the morning and longer ones in the afternoon to see if that works better for you and your child.
They say never wake a sleeping baby, but that’s not always the best policy. You and your baby will likely need a little trial-and-error to figure out what works best for you, but here are a few situations where you might want to consider waking up your little one from their nap:
If your baby hasn’t eaten enough in the past few hours
If your baby is on a nap schedule and they have overslept
If it’s close to bedtime
If your baby is having trouble sleeping at night
There are a few strategies you can use to keep your little one awake if you need to stretch their wake window:
Distract your baby with a change of scenery - a walk outside and some fresh air will usually do the trick, even simply moving into a different room could be enough to entertain your little one and stretch their wake window a little bit longer
Stimulate them with activities - take out a play mat and some toys, sing a song, or read them a book
Set the scene - keep the environment bright and active during your child’s wake window, and shut out light and noise when it’s naptime or bedtime
You and your baby will need to work together to figure out what length of wake window works best for you. However, a four-hour wake window is typically more appropriate for a 13-month-old baby. At 4 months, a 1.5 - 2.5 hour wake window might work better.
Wake windows take place throughout the day, not just before bedtime. Typically, wake windows should be a little shorter in the morning and a little longer in the evening before bedtime. But sticking with a consistent window can help ensure both naptime and bedtime go off without a hitch!