When exhausted parents reach out to me, one of the first questions I ask is about awake windows. How much awake time are they giving their child before offering a nap or bedtime? All too often, these awake windows are much too long. 

An overtired baby has a harder time calming, falling asleep and staying asleep. Being overtired is the #1 culprit for early morning wake-ups too. So how do you know if your baby is tired? Here are a few sleep cues to look for: 

Getting Sleepy: Baby may start being uninterested in toys or maybe even you; looking off into space and giving cues like red eyebrows. Start working on your nap/bedtime routine now to get them to sleep before they are overtired. 

Time For Bed: This is when you will see more signs like yawning, red eyes, and fussing. Now is the time to get your child in bed so they can fall asleep. Allow enough time so that you don't skip your regular bedtime routine. You can adjust and make it a bit shorter if needed, but always offer a consistent routine to help signal that it is bedtime. 

Overtired: Your baby may become inconsolable, show signs like red eyes or pulling at their ears. You may even see a burst of energy. This “second wind” is definitely a sign that they are overtired. When your baby is overtired, you may find that it takes longer to get your little one to settle and fall asleep. 

Still struggling to understand sleep cues?

Along with the sleep cues listed above, you may also use their age-appropriate awake windows as a guide to know when to offer their next sleep. During the first 4-5 months, I suggest following a routine rather than a strict schedule. Babies and children thrive on a routine, and you may notice things feeling easier once you have a good routine in place.

Here are some age-specific guidelines that I recommend:

0-3 months: The maximum awake time during the newborn stage is 60-90 minutes. This is often just enough time to change a dirty diaper, feed your baby, snuggle and change another dirty diaper before they doze off. Naps in the early months are often short and frequent. 

3-6 months: Naps should be offered after 1.5-2.5 hours of awake time. Most often this allows for three naps. Around the 5-month mark is when we start seeing naps consolidating from short snoozes to longer naps. 

6-9 months: You will start seeing your baby consolidate to two naps with 2.5-3 hours of awake time in between. 

9-13 months: At this age, naps should be offered after about 2.5-4 hours of awake time between each sleep. The shortest awake window should be offered in the morning while the longest awake window is between the last nap and bedtime. 

13-18 months: This is the most common time to transition to 1 nap with 4.5-6 hours of awake time. Make sure to offer an early bedtime if the nap is short to avoid them becoming overtired. 

18 months-3 years: Continue to offer a nap with 5-6 hours of awake time. Your child is usually ready to drop the nap altogether between 3-4 years old. It’s still important to offer a “quiet time” until they are able to go from morning wakeup to bedtime without major meltdowns. It’s also wonderful for parents and caregivers to have some downtime in the middle of the day, too. 

I am available to help you and your family manage awake windows and more. See my bio below — and I encourage you to follow me on Instagram for more tips.

Heidi Lovens 
Founder of Everyday Lovens
Certified Baby & Toddler Sleep Coach & Wellness Advocate 

I am a business owner, toddler mama to my 2-year-old son, Lennon, and wife to my busy and often sleep-deprived FireFighter husband. Sleep is so important in our household! My husband often comes home exhausted after a busy shift at the firehouse. This is why I created Everyday Lovens in 2015 — to help educate parents and caregivers on the fundamentals and importance of sleep. 

I specialize in gentile and holistic techniques to create healthy lifelong habits. Each plan and approach is customized to a family's unique needs. 

IG @everydaylovens 

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Daniela said:

My toddler ( 2 yrs, 2 months) naps perfectly at daycare at 12/1215 pm for like an hour and a half sometimes 2 hrs and in the evening won’t go down until 1030/11pm!!!! Even if we tire her out going to parks in the evening, come home, do dinner, shower and story. Any suggestions? I asked daycare to cap her nap to an hour, since that seems to help a tiny bit on weekends when she is with us (with us she only naps for maaax 1 hr). But they say they cannot due to child services laws. Heeeeelp 🙏🏻

Rachel said:

My daughter has been refusing naps on and off for a couple weeks now. Both Tuesday, Wednesday and today she did not nap. She is 18 months. An example is, she woke up at 5:40 we got her out of her crib at 6, and i put her into the crib at 10:45. She didn’t fall asleep for the entire hour i left in there. She just rolled around and cried on and off.

Example two: she woke up at 6:15am, i put her down at 11:15am and it was the same exact situation. I dont know if its too early or too late?

Heidi Valentina Lovens said:

Hi Andrea!
I think you can adjust your sons nap to start at 12pm—just slightly later to encourage a longer nap. This later time may also help the early morning wakeup because setting a nap too early can reinforce the early morning wakeup. You can even add a “wake to sleep” to his nap schedule to help lengthen the nap. I have an example/explanation of this in my Instagram Stories https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17884166665343035/?hl=en

Heidi Valentina Lovens said:

Hi Jessica Dillion!
Are you an early riser too? Some children have a very strong wake time no matter what you do. But there are usually still adjustments you can make. Unless your child is going to bed at 5pm, the 5am or even 4:30am wakeup is way too early. I consider anything before 6am a nighttime wake and I would wait until then to start his day out of the crib. A good goal for this age is 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep.
I would check his awake windows during the day and setting an 11:30am/12pm nap time start and avoid earlier nap because it can just reinforce early wake times.

Heidi Valentina Lovens said:

Hi Jess- I would look at following his age appropriate awake windows during the day. This would be offering a sleep about every 1.2-2 hours following his sleepy cues. Also important during the day is so make sure he is eating around every 3 hours—following your pediatricians recommendation of course. I see that if babies are waking this much in the night they are usually overtired from not enough sleep or sleeping too much during the day and got getting enough o eat, leaving the night time for them to want to be awake and eat.

Michelle said:

Hi Heidi!

I’ve been struggling for months to figure out how to get my daughter to sleep past 5/530. No matter what time I put her to bed, she never sleeps later than that. She’ll be 20 months and currently I keep her in her crib until 6am. She goes down for her first nap at 1215/1230, no fuss, asleep in minutes and usually sleep between 2/2.5 hrs. Nighttime, she just never seems tired, but I’ve tried putting her to sleep after 8 and she was still up at the same times. I’m at such a loss and so discouraged. I’ve tried everything! Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Jess said:

I have an almost 3 month old who used to sleep great 5 hour stretch until we transitioned him to the pack and play with a mattress since my 2 year old has the crib still.
Now he is waking up after a 2 to 4 hours at the start then a half hour to hour after that until we wake up unless he sleeps on our chest (which I know is so dangerous) or I fall asleep while feeding and then try to lay him down and he wakes up again
How can we get him back to sleeping good? We tried swaddle transition sack around his tummy since he rolls onto one side and a zipadee zip since I thought it was a Moro reflex

Jessica Dillon said:

My son is 22 months. He is waking up around 430 in the morning lately 😫 but he’s usually a 5 am waker. I’m having trouble figuring out wake windows and an appropriate time to pick him up in the morning. Any feedback appreciated!

ANdrea said:

My 15 month old is on one nap, will only nap for about 1.5 hours typically sometimes will go for longer. Struggling to time it right as he usually wakes at 630, down for a nap at 11:30 then up for the rest of the day at 1. Would love for him to sleep in a little later or nap later so we don’t have to have early evenings to put him to bed at 630/7

Ivy Dodge said:

We’ve been having issues with early morning wake ups since we transitioned our 19 month old to one nap several months ago. Oftentimes, she’ll wake up between 4:30-5:30 and not go back to sleep. We leave her in the crib until 6:00. She’s usually awake for 5.5 hours before her 1.5-2 hour nap. But we can’t seem to get the timing right between end of nap and bedtime. We’ve been using 5 hours, but many times she’ll roll around for 30-60 minutes before she finally falls asleep. We can’t tell if she’s over or under tired, which I believe is the cause of the early morning wake ups. Help!

Heidi Lovens said:

These age appropriate times are suggestions to follow but not always the “rule.” If you feel that your child is doing better with the non-adjusted age range and it’s working for them, then absolutely follow longer awake windows. I would start by focusing on one nap a day in the crib and working towards falling asleep independently. Generally speaking, the first nap of the day is the easiest so I would start there.
When a child is overtired it’s harder for them to settle, fall asleep and stay asleep. So staying ahead of them being overtired is key.

Heidi Lovens said:

For Katie-
I would work on slowly adjusting the awake windows during the day. Between morning wake-up and the first nap of the day is the shortest awake window and then throughout the day you can increase the awake windows slightly so it’s nothing abrupt. Along with the longer awake windows usually come longer naps.

Heidi Lovens said:

Yes, this sounds wonderful. You may start to see your baby needing a little more awake time during the day as the weeks/months go on. A good sign they need more awake time is if it starts taking them longer to fall asleep or if naps because much shorter.

Heidi Lovens said:

Your son may be ready for longer wake windows at this age. He is also getting close to the age to drop to one nap— this most commonly happens between 15-18 months but can happen earlier towards 13 months. I would first try stretching the awake windows and even trying the “Wake to Sleep” method. You can find an example of this in my Instagram stories under “Sleep Tips.” https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17884166665343035/?hl=en

Beth Andersen said:

Hi there,
Thank you for any information you may have on wake windows for a 13 month old. Previously our son was sleeping really well for both naps and overnight. We have been trying to use a 3-hour wake window in the morning and a three and a quarter to three and a half in the afternoon. He still takes two naps. It has been a struggle lately to get get him asleep and stay asleep for more than 45 minutes. Thanks so much for any insight you might have. Beth

Sarah said:

Ash did you ever get any information? My daughter was born 10 weeks early so she’s just over 3 months corrected age 1 month. She can’t self soothe either any more and needs to be held to sleep.

Ash said:

I have a 15 week old who was born 7 weeks early. She definitely doesn’t sleep like a newborn anymore or like her corrected age (2 months) and has longer awake windows. It’s like she’s going through the 4 month sleep regression as she doesn’t let me put her down for naps anymore and can’t seem to self soothe. I’m confused and tired and not sure how to go about her naps. There isn’t a lot of info out there on how to approach preemie babies and sleep, I am struggling.

Katie said:

My 15 week old should be able to stay awake for 1.5 hours but at about 50-60 minutes he starts getting extremely fussy and just wants to sleep (I think). He was doing well with the 1.5 hr wake time for about a week and then he started getting fussy again. He sleeps terribly at night so I feel like he’s overtired but before he was undertired because I was putting him down to soon. Now I’m just desperate and confused. Any advice?

Dayna said:

Hi Heidi, an average wake window for my 9 week old is about 45 minutes, and she’ll usually sleep for 2 hours each nap. I sometimes have to wake her up at the 2hr mark. Is this normal for her age? She goes to sleep at night around 8 and will wake twice before getting up around 6am. But overall sleeps good at night.

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