Wake Windows By Age: Optimal Sleep For Babies And Children

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 07/25/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Tips

Are you struggling to get your little one to sleep? Tired of dealing with overtiredness, nap fighting and bedtime battles? If so, one of the most important things to take a closer look at is your little one’s wake windows.

By understanding wake windows by age and how they impact sleep as a whole you can help your child get the rest they need to grow and develop to their fullest potential.

What Are Wake Windows?

Importance Of Wake Windows

Getting wake windows right will make a huge difference to your child’s overall well-being. 

This is because maintaining a consistent sleep schedule based on age-appropriate wake windows can help your little one fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.

It can also prevent your little one from becoming overtired.

Meaning you have a happier, more content child who won’t fight sleep, will throw less tantrums, and who’s less stressed.

Wake Windows By Age

The importance of healthy sleep cannot be underestimated. But to make the most of sleep, you need to make the most of the periods of time when your child is awake.

Here’s a guide to wake windows by age:

Keep in mind that your baby’s sleep cycle may change during transitions, such as switching from two naps to one nap or transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed.

Growth spurts and hitting a developmental milestone will also impact awake windows resulting in them temporarily needing to sleep for longer periods of time.

Managing Sleep Schedules

An effective sleep schedule will ensure your little one gets enough sleep over a 24-hour period to maintain healthy development.

As a general rule of thumb, here’s an outline of what your baby’s sleep schedule should look like:

AgeNumber of NapsLength of NapsBedtime
0-2 months4-8 naps per day30 minutes to 2 hours8-9 pm
2-4 months3-5 naps per day30 minutes to 2 hours7-8 pm
4-6 months2-3 naps per day1 – 2 hours6-7 pm
6-12 months2 naps per day1-2 hours6-7 pm
12-18 months1-2 naps per day1-3 hours7-8 pm
18-24 months1 nap per day1-3 hours7-8 pm

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Sleep Schedules Further Reading

To learn more about sleep schedules and to find what awake times and night sleep will work best for your baby, read these posts:

Identifying Sleepy Cues

Identifying sleep cues and managing awake windows go hand in hand and will help you determine when it’s time for a nap.

Look out for sleep cue signs like rubbing of eyes, yawning, or fussiness. If you notice these cues, it’s usually time for a nap.

Influence Of Feeding And Growth On Wake Windows

Feeding and growth will also influence your little one’s wake windows. As they grow, they will be able to stay awake for more time between naps and sleep for longer between feeds.

Ensuring your little one is getting enough food at age-appropriate intervals will help to ensure they are ready for longer awake times too.

Effects Of Overstimulation And Overtiredness

Overstimulation and overtiredness will without a doubt have a negative effect on your little one’s sleep schedule.

Try to avoid overstimulating them with too much activity or noise before nap time. This can make it harder for them to fall asleep and avoid them becoming overtired, as it will lead to difficulty falling asleep and shorter naps.

Aim to have calm, quiet time before any form of sleep.

Sleep Training And Wake Windows

When it comes to sleep training, knowing and understanding awake windows will play an important role in helping your little one establish healthy sleep habits.

By understanding their natural sleep cues and patterns, you can create a consistent bedtime routine that supports your little one’s sleep needs.

One effective sleep training method is to use wake windows to time your little one’s naps and bedtime.

By paying attention to your little one’s sleep cues and timing daytime naps and bedtime accordingly, you can help them fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.

This will establish peaceful and healthy sleep associations as they grow.

One important element of sleep training is to establish a recognisable and calming bedtime routine that helps your little one wind down and prepare for sleep. This might include activities like reading a book, singing a lullaby, or using white noise to create a soothing sleep space.

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It is also important to recognise that different sleep training methods work for different age groups.

For example, swaddling can be an effective tool for helping young babies fall asleep as swaddling helps your baby feel secure and prevent them from startling themselves awake with sudden movements.

For toddlers, you can use a sleep training clock to help them understand when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

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Studies show that children do not fully understand the concept of time until around 8 years old, so MELLA uses colours and facial expressions to teach your kid when it's time for bed and when it's okay to wake up. With MELLA, your kid can learn to stay in bed longer, giving you more sleep!

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As your baby grows and their sleep needs change, you will need to adjust their awake times, sleep schedule and sleep training accordingly.

By always paying attention to sleep cues, knowing your little one’s age-appropriate wake windows, adjusting sleep routines as needed and keeping bedtime and pre-nap routines consistent, you can keep sleep on track and help your little one establish strong healthy sleep habits that will benefit them and you for years to come.

Wake Windows By Age Featured

Frequently Asked Questions About Wake Windows By Age

Looking for more information about wake windows by age? Here are the most commonly asked questions, answered just for you.

What Are Appropriate Wake Windows For A Newborn?

Newborn wake windows range from 30 to 60 minutes. It’s important to watch for sleep cues and put your baby down for a nap before they become overtired. Never keep your newborn baby awake if they need sleep, it will only end in disaster.

How Do Wake Windows Change As A Baby Grows?

As your baby grows, their nap schedule will change and their wake windows will gradually increase. By six months old, most babies can handle wake windows of 2-2.5 hours. By 12 months, they can handle 3-4 hours, and by two years old, they can handle 6+ hours. 

Should Wake Windows Include Feeding?

Yes, wake windows should include feeding. It’s best to feed your baby at the beginning of a wake window, so they have time to digest before going down for a nap.

How Long Should The Last Wake Window Be Before Bedtime?

The last wake window before bedtime should be shorter than the others. For babies six months and older, it’s best to keep the last wake window to 2-2.5 hours.

At What Age Do Wake Windows Typically Become Longer?

Wake windows become longer as your baby grows. By six months old, most babies can handle wake windows of 2-2.5 hours. By 12 months, they can handle 3-4 hours, and by two years old, they can handle 6-plus hours.

What Are Signs That Wake Windows May Be Too Long?

If your baby is fussy, cranky, or has trouble falling asleep, it may be a sign that their wake windows are too long. Watch for sleep cues and adjust their schedule accordingly.

When To Seek Professional Help About Wake Windows

If you’re having trouble establishing a sleep routine or your baby is consistently having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it may be time to seek professional help. Your paediatrician or a sleep consultant can help you develop a plan that works for your little one’s individual needs.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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