Baby Wake Windows

Baby Wake windows. Whether you have a newborn, infant or toddler, wake windows are super important to understand and pay attention to everyday. Get excited to first learn so much about your child and second have a much easier time getting them to sleep!

What is a wake window?

A baby wake window is the amount of time the child can tolerate being awake until their biological need tells them they need to sleep again. See the diagram right to find your child’s age and wake window right now. Notice that the window does change pretty quickly as they age, along with how short a newborn’s wake window is. Let’s answer some common questions.

Why does my baby sleep so much during the day?

Wake windows are important to notice and acknowledge for many reasons that I will go over. But the question I get the most is, why does my baby sleep so much during the day? The simple answer is because they HAVE to in order to survive. Here are three reasons why babies can only tolerate short windows of time awake.

  1. Human beings are born to sleep. It is a biological need they have, just like drinking milk, they must sleep or they won’t survive. 
  2. Many things happen while a baby sleeps. Brain development, encoding memories, growth, body restoration. 
  3. Every single thing is NEW to a baby. It is not only stimulating all around them (which is tiring), but also all activities, even eating and digesting food is hard for these tiny humans. It’s exhausting!!

How can I find my baby’s wake window?

The first thing to do is check the diagram and find the estimated time your child can tolerate awake. When you have the time, whether it be 45 minutes or 2 hours, your child wakes up for the day … keep an eye on the clock. When you get to the recommended wake window time, start to look for signs of sleepiness. Now this is where it can get tricky. Sleep cues are commonly misread!! Here are the sleep cues you should be looking for and can sometimes be so subtle that you miss them.

  • Staring off
  • Turning head away from you
  • Won’t make eye contact
  • Yawning (this is edge of overtiredness, try to catch before yawning)

Yes, that’s it. These are the signs you want to look for. If you catch your child in their sleep window, before they are overtired, you will have a much easier time getting them to sleep.

I missed the wake window. What happens now?

Overtiredness and fatigue happen when a child goes past the amount of time they can tolerate being awake. They are overstimulated, agitated, and will have a much harder time falling asleep.

Here are cues of an overtired child:

  • Yawning
  • Red eyes or eyebrows
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Crying
  • Arching back
  • If you have a toddler, overtiredness can be shown as hyperactivity.

If you see these signs, you missed the sleep window. When a baby gets overtired they become fatigued and their body goes into fight or flight stress mode releasing cortisol (the wake up hormone) because they HAVE to sleep. This makes it much harder for them to calm themselves to fall asleep, and can keep them awake even longer increasing their sleep debt. You want to avoid this at all costs!!

Practice makes… growth.

I would love to say practice makes perfect but being a parent is never going to be perfect. Here are a couple things to help you start learning your baby’s cues, and trust me just by reading this blog you are already on the right track!

  1. Head to my website to get your free wake window magnet mailed to you! Put this little gem right on your fridge to know your baby’s wake windows as they grow, how much sleep they should be getting daily, and how many naps are recommended. 
  2. Set an alarm to start looking for cues. For example: Your baby woke up at 7am and is 3-months old and can tolerate around 1.5 hours awake. At the hour mark, I start to look for sleep signs. 
  3. Keep a sleep log. Take notes on what you observe, what worked well, and when your child has a hard time. 
  4. Stay consistent. Once you get to know your child’s cues stay consistent with the time they wake up, the time they nap, and the bedtime. The child’s biological clock will get stronger with consistency at the same times each day and signal rest, because of the predictability.

Don’t worry if you get it wrong sometimes, that is just life. Luckily we always get a second chance at the next nap, or next bedtime. Understanding wake windows is such an amazing tool that will help you tremendously toward self-soothing, and independent sleep skills.

Need extra support? Get a customized sleep plan for your little one! Do you have questions but want to DIY? Book an “Ask me anything call”. Baby wake windows are not talked about enough!! Help a friend out by sharing this post, and don’t forget to get your FREE wake window magnet.

Learn more about your child’s sleep:

The Sleep Regression timeline

Baby Feeding Schedule

Toddler Bedtime Battles

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  1. […] mean they should be sleeping 2 or 3 times each day. Check out your child’s wake windows by age here to get an idea of where they should be at. Each child is unique in their sleep needs and it also […]

  2. […] Move bedtime earlier. You want to catch them before they get to the overtired state. When you put them to bed in their sleep window they will be able to fall asleep easier and also get better quality sleep. Read all about baby wake windows here. […]

  3. […] Newborns can only tolerate 30-60 minutes awake. When you catch them before they are overtired, it helps them settle into a nap and get better quality sleep. Which in turn will help you to connect sleep cycles and extend the nap. Read more about how life changing wake windows are here. […]

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