Age Appropriate Awake Windows & Help Understanding Sleep Cues

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. 

www.everydaylovens.com
IG @everydaylovens 


62 comments


  • Amanda

    My 16 week old recently started daycare so our beautiful schedule has been thrown out the window. She also has started sleeping worse at night. She used to sleep 11-12 hours at night without waking up/needing anything. Since starting daycare she wakes up 1-4x a night. She doesn’t eat at these wake ups and a pacifier soothes her but I am wondering if because her nap schedule has been shifted it’s impacting our night sleep? Her last wake window used to be around 2-2.5 hours after a 1.5-2 hour nap. Now, it’s hit or miss on when/how long that last nap happens so there are nights where she has been up for almost 4 hours before it’s bedtime. Any suggestions??


  • Lily

    Hello,

    Recently I find my 5.5 months old struggles to stay awake longer between naps. Even after a long nap sometimes he starts really rubbing his eyes at 1.5 hours (or earlier) and starts to get cranky. I am concerned as at this age they should be awake at least 2-2.5 hours? The only difference I notice is that now he rolls and sleeps on tummy and when he wakes up he is always crying (but does not roll back). I’m unsure if this contributes to the short wake windows. The baby is not sick and doesn’t seem to be teething. Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks. Lily


  • Heidi Lovens

    Hello Jessica Patterson,
    Congratulations! I suggest following the age appropriate awake windows for a one month old. This is anywhere from 40-90 minutes of awake time before offering sleep. At this age, it’s ok and perfectly normal for baby to fall asleep in your arms or while feeding. I would keep trying to place baby down for sleep on their back and offering support as needed. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @everydaylovens for more soothing and sleep tips.


  • Jessica Patterson

    First time new mom….I have a fussy one month old at night and wants to be held and won’t sleep on his own in his bassinet….what is a good schedule and how do I stop the not sleeping on his own?


  • Heidi Lovens

    Hello Maria Nappi,
    Thanks for sharing your sons schedule. I start with stretching his first awake time and shifting his naps 30 minutes later. Offering the first nap of the day too early can reinforce the early morning wakeup. Please feel free to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation on my website if you would like more guidance.
    Sweet dreams, Heidi
    https://everydaylovens.com/


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