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What are awake windows, and why are they important?

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Lots of parents think that the more time their little one is awake, and the more tired they get, the easier they’ll find it to go to sleep. Sometimes they will keep them up until 7pm in the hope of the Holy Grail of 7pm-7am sleep or they believe their little one just doesn’t need that much sleep.

In reality, little ones have a very fine line between being tired enough and being over tired, and they’ll have a much more difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep when that’s the case. Being over tired can also cause those early morning wake ups too. Naps can be tricky because they are just based upon sleep pressure (tiredness, basically) so, if your little one does not have enough sleep pressure they are likely to have short naps but too much sleep pressure means they become overtired.

How long should your little one should be awake for between naps?

Here, at Little Dreams we get so many questions about awake windows (how long little ones should be awake between naps and naps and bedtime). Awake windows are important because this is the typical amount of time that a little one can be awake before they start getting overtired and therefore find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. The right amount of sleep pressure will also help your little one nap for longer – no more 40 minute naps!

The important thing to remember, however, is that every baby is different and, also, different babies have different tolerance of how long these windows can be ‘stretched by’ for example, some babies olds can stay awake an extra 10-15 minutes quite easily, whilst others will have a meltdown if they are awake 5 minutes too long.

To give you an example, these are the awake window guide we work with:

Newborns: 45 mins-1hr

11-14 weeks: 1 – 1 ½ hrs

4 months – 1 ½ – 2 hrs

5 months: 2 – 2 ½ hrs

6-7 months: 2 ½ -3hrs

8-12 months: 3-4 hrs

12/13 months-3 years: 5-6hrs

Of course, every little one is different so they could be at either end of these timings. You could also look out for sleepy cues to help you understand when your little one needs a nap or to go to bed. Just bear in mind not every baby will show sleepy cues until they are overtired so keeping an eye on them and tracking how easily your little one goes down will also help you ascertain their specific cues.

Sleepy cues can include:

Staring into space;

Avoiding eye contact;

Rubbing their eyes;

Pulling their ears/hair/hands on their head;



If your little one is not sleeping well and you feel you need a little helping hand so you can all benefit from good sleep just book a free 15 minute chat to talk about working together and so we can answer any questions you have.

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