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Baby Wake Windows By Age: The Complete Guide

Baby Wake Windows By Age: The Complete Guide

Understanding appropriate wake windows based on your baby’s age is one of the best ways to reduce your stress when it comes to your baby’s sleep.

In this article, we will discuss why wake windows are important, when to start paying attention to them, the importance of sleep cues and how to recognize them, and of course, also provide a complete list of wake windows by age.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits, which will make it easier to get your baby to fall asleep and follow a predictable sleep schedule.

Why Wake Windows Are Important

Wake windows are the period of time your baby stays awake between periods of sleep.

Wake windows matter because, unlike adults who rely largely on a circadian rhythm to dictate when we feel tired, your baby’s sleep is dictated primarily by sleep pressure.

Sleep pressure is the natural urge to sleep that builds up during the time we are awake. The longer we stay awake, the stronger the desire to sleep becomes.

As a newborn accumulates sleep pressure, they will fall asleep more easily and stay asleep for a longer duration. Newborns have high sleep pressure, which is why they sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night.

Baby’s wake windows are based on how long it takes to accumulate enough sleep pressure to be ready for their next sleep period.

If you try to put your baby to sleep before they’ve accumulated enough sleep pressure, they will be under tired and difficult to put to bed.

If you try to keep them awake for too long, they become overtired, leading to a cranky baby who may also be difficult to settle.

Both of these situations may lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

When you get their wake window just right, it has several benefits:

  1. Improved sleep quality: A well-rested baby tends to sleep better and wake up less often during the night
  2. Better mood and temperament: A baby who follows proper wake windows is less likely to be cranky, irritable, or overly stimulated.
  3. Optimal cognitive and physical development: Adequate sleep promotes healthy brain development, allowing your baby to learn and grow more effectively.
  4. Easier bedtime routines: When a baby is neither overtired nor under tired, it’s easier to get your baby to fall asleep.

It’s also very important to realise that your baby’s wake windows will change as they grow.

This is why you need to make sure you adjust your baby’s wake windows by age.

When to Start Using Wake Windows

It’s never too early to start using wake windows to guide your baby’s sleep schedule.

However, babies up to around four months of age don’t have a sleep schedule yet, and their naps often vary in length. This makes it challenging to establish a set routine.

Once your baby is around four months old, their sleep patterns will become more consistent, and you can start using a nap schedule more reliably, meaning wake windows become more important.

Recognizing Your Baby’s Sleep Cues

Sleepy cues (aka. tired signs) are signs that you can use to tell when your baby is ready for sleep.

Learning to spot these cues will help you identify when they’re ready for bed, making it easier to follow age-appropriate wake windows.

When you don’t know how to spot these baby sleep signs, you may end up trying to put them down for a nap too early, or accidentally stretch wake windows.

Common sleep cues to look out for:

  1. Yawning: An obvious sign of tiredness, yawning is a clear indication that your baby is ready for sleep.
Young baby in parents' arms yawning, signalling the end of this round of awake time and now it's bed time.
  1. Rubbing eyes or ears: When your baby is tired, they may rub their eyes or ears as a self-soothing mechanism.
Young baby lying on their back rubbing their eyes, signalling that they may have had enough wake time and be ready for a sleep.
  1. Fussiness or irritability: Babies often become fussy or irritable when they’re tired. By the time you notice this, you may already have an overtired baby.
Fussy baby lying on their back crying, which may be a signal that they are tired and need their next nap.
  1. Loss of interest: As they get tired, your baby may lose interest in their toys or surroundings and seem disengaged.
  2. Red eyebrows or eyelids: When a baby is tired, the area around their eyes may appear red or slightly swollen.
young baby lying on a towel with slight redness around their eyes, which can be a sign of tiredness.
  1. Slower movements: As your baby becomes sleepy, their movements may slow down and appear more relaxed.

It’s essential to recognize these sleep cues and put your baby down to sleep as soon as you can.

But these signs don’t always mean your baby needs sleep. You should use these cues combined with their expected wake windows by age and other context to better understand their needs.

For example:

Let’s say you know, based on your baby’s age appropriate wake windows, that they should be awake for 2-2.5 hours before needing a nap.

But you notice they become fussy or irritable after just 1 hour of awake time after their last nap (assuming it wasn’t a short nap), then that may not be a tired sign. It may mean they’re hungry, uncomfortable, bored or something else.

Wake Windows By Age

Below is a general guide to wake windows by age. Keep in mind that every baby is unique, and you should always adjust these guidelines to fit your baby’s individual needs and sleep patterns.

You can also download a copy of the free printable guide by clicking the image below.

0-4 Months Old (Newborn)

Typical wake window: 45 minutes-2 hours

Number of naps per day: Naps on demand

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 14-17 hours

At this stage your baby’s naps will be quite frequent, with short wake windows.

Generally they’ll only stay awake for 45-120 minutes before it’s nap time again.

Short naps are also common from 12 weeks onwards, often with only 30-45 minutes of sleep before their next wake window. Their sleep schedule will be erratic, so focus on recognizing and responding to their sleep cues.

4-6 Months Old

Typical wake window: 2-2.5 hours

Number of naps per day: 4, dropping to 3

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13.5-15 hours

By four to six months of age their wake windows will have extended to between 120 to 180 minutes.

A nap schedule will start to emerge, and as a result, you’ll notice more predictable sleep periods. This should make it easier to start to establish a routine.

At around 5-6 months, your baby may start to link sleep cycles. When that happens they’ll sleep longer when they nap. On the 3 nap schedule, the first nap and second nap are usually the longest, while the third nap is generally a short nap.

6-9 Months Old

Typical wake window: 2-3 hours

Number of naps per day: 3, dropping to 2

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13.5 – 15 hours

Wake windows for babies between six and nine months will be around 2 to 3 hours, and their nap schedule will be fairly consistent. This is the period when your baby may transition from three naps to two, with a longer wake window in the morning and the shortest wake window in the afternoon.

When they drop to a two nap schedule, it generally moves something like this: Awake for 2 hours first thing in the morning – first nap – 3 hour wake window – nap #2 – 4 hour wake window – bedtime.

Of course, all children are different, so don’t expect this schedule to be exact, but it’s a general guide.

9-12 Months Old

Typical wake window: 3-4 hours

Number of naps per day: 2

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13-14 hours

As your baby reaches nine to twelve months old, their wake windows will extend to 3-4 hours.

They will likely continue to have two naps per day. While spacing between naps will vary slightly for individual children, they may become more evenly spaced throughout the day.

12-18 Months Old

Typical wake window: 4-6 hours

Number of naps per day: 2, down to 1

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13-14 hours

15 months is the average age toddlers transition from 2 naps to 1 nap.

Once your toddler has moved to 1 nap per day, be careful of catnapping in the afternoon, as this will push the bedtime later at night.

18-36 Months Old

Typical wake window: 4-6 hours

Number of naps per day: 1

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13-14 hours

At this age your child will likely be in a fairly stable routine with just one nap per day.

Once again, try to avoid catnapping, or short naps in the afternoon as this can negatively impact their night sleep if they aren’t awake for long enough before going to bed for the night.

3 Years and Up

Typical wake window: 5-6 hours

Number of naps per day: 1, dropping to none

Average total sleep in a 24 hour period: 13-14 hour

This is the stage when you can expect your baby to drop their final nap, and they’ll stay awake for the entire day.

If your little one does fall asleep and have a nap during the day, the total amount of time they sleep that night will be shorter. This is because they will reach their total required sleep for the day sooner.


Understanding and following age-appropriate wake windows can significantly improve your baby’s sleep quality, mood, and overall development. By paying attention to their sleep cues and adjusting their schedule accordingly, you’ll be fostering healthy sleep habits that will benefit both you and your baby.

If you’re struggling to get your baby to stay asleep, read this post next to learn what to do when your little one wakes frequently.

Otherwise, your baby might be experiencing a temporary sleep regression. Click here to learn how to know if your baby is experiencing an 8 month sleep regression and how to manage it.

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with over 12 years of clinical experience. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle. Emma is the founder of Brightest Beginning & writes about all things child development, sleep, feeding, toilet training and more.

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