As a sleep consultant, I am asked a lot about baby and child sleep schedules and awake times. If you are wondering, awake times are the amount of time a baby or a child is awake before needing to sleep again.
I love hearing that parents want to make sure that their child is on a good schedule and that they are getting the right amount of sleep for their age because sleep IS a priority! Quality sleep plays a huge factor in a child’s behaviour and overall well-being and development.
The chart below is a guideline for the amount of sleep your child needs according to their age. You might notice that for bedtimes, there is a big range. Your child’s bedtime will depend on their individual sleep needs, their current schedule, and how well your child napped that day (if they are still napping).
You’ll want to keep an eye out for sleepy signs and fussiness as a real indication of when to put your child to bed. Sticking to an earlier bedtime is best if your child is showing evening fussiness.
How long should my baby be awake in between sleep periods?
Schedules and wake times are a huge part of baby sleep, however, it is not everything. A chart will not dictate exactly how much sleep your specific baby needs. Sleep is a big puzzle piece and when many pieces are put together, a child can achieve healthy sleep.
Below is simply a guide, and it will give you a starting point and a rough idea of what you can expect for your child’s age.
Wake windows are important because babies who are awake too long may become overtired and babies who are not awake long enough could be under-tired. Both of these factors affect a child's quality of sleep.
Here are some important things to consider…
1) Don’t focus too much on the clock, but rather, watch your baby.
Keep an eye out for sleepy signs. They might show flushed eyebrows, big yawns, rubbing eyes, fussiness/ crying, pulling at ears, and arching their back. Going by tired signs is the best way to determine when to put your child to sleep.
Timing of sleep is so important for babies and young children. By putting your child to bed when they are not too tired, but they are starting to show that they are tired, you are catching their natural sleep wave, just before it crashes.
When a child experiences that crash, they are already in an overtired state. When a child is overtired, it is difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep, which then prevents them from getting that good quality sleep they need.
2) Keep in mind that wake windows increase as the day goes on.
For example, the wake window between your child’s last nap and bedtime might be longer than their first wake window of the day (which is the wake window between your child’s wake time and their first nap).
Lastly, don’t stress if you don’t get this right. This is all about learning who your baby is and what their specific sleep needs are. If you try a schedule or an awake time that doesn’t work, try another awake time or something else that might help them achieve better sleep.
Sleep and behaviour success in the early years of your child’s life is so important, and we want to help you! If you are looking for one-on-one support, please reach out to us and we will find a package and level of support that is right for you. We offer free 15- minute (no obligation) chats so that you can decide if this is the right fit for you.