Understanding Wake Windows: A Guide For New ParentsDec 07, 2023
What is a Wake Window?
An awake time or wake window is the time your baby is awake between naps. This is taken from the time they wake, until the time they go to sleep. The idea is, that by following 'age appropriate' awake times, your baby will be easier to settle because they are in their 'sweet spot' - they won't be overtired, they won't be under tired, everything will be just right! Whilst awake times may be helpful for some, it's important to remember that they aren't evidence based, these are merely observations of averages which is also why you might find advice around them varies so much depending on who you are talking to.
Importance of Sleep Pressure
Sleep pressure is super important when it comes to sleep, and this is what awake time creates. When your baby is awake, adenosine builds up - the more time they spend awake, the higher their sleep pressure is which triggers the need for a nap. All a nap is, is a way to release some sleep pressure so that your baby can get through to bedtime. It's important to remember that your baby is unique, and they also have unique requirements when it comes to sleep pressure. Some babies simply can't handle as much as others, and this might mean they have smaller 'than average' awake times. Other babies may need more sleep pressure or longer wake windows in order to sleep and sleep well. So don't be afraid to play around to find what works best for your little one!
Adjusting Awake Times
The big picture is always key when it comes to sleep. As a general rule of thumb, awake times will typically increase by around 15 minutes every 3-4 weeks (however this may level out when your baby is down to 2 naps). If sleep is tricky, thinking about how long your baby has been on their current awake time for, may be helpful to work out if anything needs to be adjusted - remember, your baby will need a sufficient amount of sleep pressure to be tired enough to nap and sleep overnight.
Recognizing Tired Signs
Tired cues are also great to use in conjunction with awake time. If you aren't noticing any tired cues and sleep has been a little tricky, consider if it's possible that your baby needs to increase awake time to create a stronger drive for sleep. It's also very common for babies to show 'tired signs' if they are a little bored or under-stimulated. If your baby tends to do this and you get the sense your baby needs more awake time don't be afraid to experiment with more stimulation! Try heading to play outside, chatting in front of a mirror of filling up the sink for them to kick in! If they calm down, chances are they are okay to keep going!
It's okay if you find awake times helpful! And it's okay if you don't! Remember, if you are using them that they are there to help GUIDE you but that really is all they are, a guide or a starting point - If your little one doesn't fit the mould, that is not at all a problem! These are some generalizations you might hear about awake times - the last wake window should be the longest or the first should be the shortest.
Of course, if this works for your baby that is great but its impossible for this to apply to every child - this will be highly variable depending on when your baby is most sensitive to sleep pressure or when they need the most!
As with everything, following your baby's cues and unique preferences is always going to be the best way to find the right thing for them!
FREE Additional Resource
Are you standing next to the cot tossing up between ‘never wake a sleeping baby’, and ‘let them sleep late and they won’t settle to bed?’ Give your intuition a little boost when it comes to awake windows and nap times, with our free awake window and nap guide HERE. (Scroll to bottom!)
Need more help?
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