Chances are if you are here, you want to help your baby sleep better and you have heard rumors that these things called ‘Wake Windows’ might have something to do with making that happen. You’ve heard it from your friends, read it in your mom Facebook group, and saw it on Instagram. It sounds like it could be the thing that helps you get your baby to sleep better. Now if only you could figure out what wake windows are and how to make them work for you.
Wake windows can be a game-changer for many parents. They can also feel like a high-school math class on test day and you forgot your calculator at home.
In this blog post, I will break down everything you need to know about wake windows so you can get your baby to nap better during the day and sleep better at night.
Read below to find out:
- What wake windows are
- Why wake windows matter for quality sleep
- How to find your baby’s wake window
- How to adjust wake windows
- What to look for to know if you have it right
What Are Wake Windows
In very simple terms, wake windows are the times between your baby’s naps. That’s it. So if your baby takes a nap from 10 am-11:30 am and then again 1:30 pm-3 pm, then your baby’s wake window is two hours. Wake windows are also called “awake windows” and this concept (without the fancy name) has been around for a very long time.
Why Wake Windows Are Important
Wake windows affect your baby’s ability to both fall and stay asleep. We’ve all heard of the seemingly exhausted baby that will just not go down for a nap. That’s because if you keep your baby up past their wake window they can become overtired and overstimulated. Putting down a baby who’s decided they’re too tired to sleep is something every parent wants to avoid.
On the other hand, if you try to put a baby down when they haven’t been awake long enough they won’t be tired enough to fall asleep. And even worse, a baby who didn’t sleep enough during the day will often sleep worse at night. To adults, this might sound crazy, but it’s true.
Some parents swear by the use of a schedule. They have babies that are happy to wake up at 7:03 am on the dot and then proceed through every day with the precision of a German train schedule. However, if your baby is not a piece of finely tuned machinery, figuring out naps can get complicated.
This is where wake windows come to the rescue. Once you know your baby’s wake window and have a good handle on their early tired cues, it’s a cinch. All you have to do after that is time the first nap based on wake-up time. Once baby gets up from the nap start the clock over again until the next nap time rolls around.
You will have to make adjustments based on whether your baby took their full nap and individual factors which you can read more about below.
How do I figure out my baby’s wake window?
- Start with the chart: use this chart to find the approximate wake window for your baby by age.
- Watch like a hawk: carefully observe your baby for sleep cues at the shorter part of the wake window. So if your baby’s potential wake window is 60-75 minutes begin observing carefully once your baby has been awake for 60 minutes.
- Put baby down: as soon as you see the sleepy cues, put your baby down for their nap and note the length of the window.
- Track & adjust: next time try to put the baby down a few minutes before the time you got them down this time. This will ensure that they’re ready for a nap before their sleepy cues start.
Every baby is different and it is important that you observe your baby carefully for their own tired cues.
Some early signs your baby might be tired include:
- Eye rubbing
- Redness under eyes
- Staring off into space or zoning out
- Sucking hands
- Tugging ears
If your baby is a newborn it might take some time to learn their individual tired cues but you’ll be a pro at this in no time.
How to Adjust Wake Windows
Your baby’s wake windows will change throughout their life, getting longer as your baby grows and can sustain more awake time.
There are some situations where you might want to shorten your baby’s wake window:
- Your baby is sick and needs lots of extra rest time to recover
- Your baby didn’t get a good night’s rest, missed a nap, or took a very short nap
In these cases, it’s more important than usual to pay attention to your baby’s tired cues. Noticing when your baby is displaying signs of tiredness will make it easier to put them down to sleep before they become overtired. When you notice early tired cues you can start your baby’s nap routine right away.
How will I know if I have it right?
If you get your baby’s wake windows right you will be on your way to better sleep both during the day and at night for you and your baby.
You’ve found your baby’s wake window correctly when your baby:
- Goes down to nap easily and falls asleep relatively quickly
- Sleeps for the recommended amount of time for their age during nap
- Wakes up in a good mood and seems rested
Wake Windows to the Rescue
Utilizing wake windows will allow you to put your baby down before they become overtired. This is one of the best ways to ensure that they fall asleep easily and get the appropriate amount of rest. Babies that nap well during the day also sleep better at night ensuring that the entire family can get the rest they need.
Want help with figuring out your child’s wake windows and how to use them to get better sleep? Schedule your free call and let’s get some rest!
I am Leann Latus, a sleep coach who has helped thousands of children find better sleep over the last 10+ years. My team and I have witnessed babies who went from waking every hour to sleeping a solid 12 hours all on their own. We’ve seen toddlers find consistent napping schedules, easier bedtimes, and learn to stay in their beds all night. And I know what those exhausting, sleepless nights feel like because I was there once too. If you’re new here…welcome! You can learn more about me and why I’m so passionate about helping parents get their children sleeping.