Wake windows by age - chart for baby sleep

Hanna Pauser
Written by
Baby awake in mothers arms

Note: Every baby is unique and develops at their own pace. The goal isn't to fit into a mold but to understand your baby's optimal wake windows.

Finding a good sleep routine for both you and your baby can seem nearly impossible. At first glance, baby sleep patterns can appear quite unpredictable.

However, baby sleep needs are governed by various internal mechanisms. Understanding these can often make patterns visible and improve the family's sleep situation.

A key part of the baby sleep puzzle is often to understand wake windows - that is, how long a baby can stay awake before they need to sleep again.

What are wake windows?

Wake windows refer to the period a baby can stay awake before they need to sleep again. For a newborn, this can be very short, about 45 minutes to 2 hours, and then gradually increase as the baby grows.¹

If a baby stays awake longer than their wake window, it can result in overtiredness, making the baby difficult to settle and leading to moodiness². Overtiredness can also negatively affect night sleep, resulting in more night wakings and restless sleep³.

In other words: A baby put to bed on time may falls asleep more easily and sleep better and wake windows help you time it.

Criticism of wake windows

The criticism against the use of wake windows has primarily been directed at the fact that there is yet no specific research supporting the intervals that have been proposed, as well as the fact that all babies are unique and cannot fit into one single mould.⁴

In sleep research, the focus has mainly been on the amount of total sleep that babies need, the distribution between day and night, and how it develops over time. The concept of wake windows, however, originates from individual pediatricians, sleep coaches, and parents own experiences⁵.

At Napper, however, we have strong faith in wake windows based on our own experience and feedback from our users. Since Napper is based on the data that parents themselves log, our sleep schedule is based on the wake windows that your baby has right now.

What does a wake window include?

The wake window is calculated from the time the baby wakes up until they are put down to sleep again¹. If the baby is calmly lying down and drifting off to sleep but is still awake, it's not included in the wake window.

In other words, if you've put your baby in the stroller and they're lying quietly, dozing off, the wake window has ended⁵.

Does the wake window include feeding?

Yes, feeding (breastfeeding or bottle-feeding) is usually included in the wake window until the baby clearly starts to fall asleep or closes their eyes and is no longer "actively" feeding (that is, when they're lightly suckling without visible or audible swallowing)⁵.

Wake windows by age

Remember: Wake windows aren't a goal to achieve but a tool to identify your baby's needs at their current developmental stage. All babies are a unique and develop at different rates, so experiment to find what works for you.

In Napper, you can log your baby's sleep for 3-7 days, and the algorithm calculates optimal wake windows and sleep times. We also adjust the routine as your baby grows.

Baby's age

Wake window

0-4 weeks

35-60 minutes

4-12 weeks

60-90 minutes

3-4 months

75-120 minutes

5-7 months

2-3 hours

7-10 months

2.5-3.5 hours

11-14 months

3-4 hours

14-24 months

4-6 hours

Wake windows for newborns

Newborn sleep patterns are usually very irregular and hard to predict at first. Therefore, it's often not possible to establish a routine based on wake windows before 8-12 weeks.

Instead, if you want you can have a rough routine for the order of activities, one example is the eat-play-sleep routine. Newborns often have wake windows of about 35-60 minutes and can sleep for about 30 minutes to 3 hours. Breastfed babies typically wake every 2-3 hours to eat. In total, they usually sleep about 14-19 hours per day⁶.

Reasons for shorter wake windows

If you have a sleep routine or follow a sleep schedule (e.g., Napper) but your baby gets tired before the wake window ends, it's important to let them sleep.

A day filled with lots of stimuli or activity can shorten the wake window. Developmental leaps can also make some days feel more intense to your baby, even if they seemed normal to you⁷.

When a baby is sick or has an infection, their need for sleep might also increase.

Should you try to stretch the wake window?

Expanding the wake window is not a goal in itself - it happens naturally as the baby grows⁷. However, there may be situations where parents consciously choose to "stretch the wake window" to stick to their routine.

For example, if the baby hasn't shown clear signs of tiredness but is close to the end of their sleep window, there might be a big chance that they would fall asleep if you went for a stroller walk or a car ride at that time.

In these cases, some parents may choose to continue "playing" and avoid sleep-promoting activities until it's time.

How to use wake windows

As your baby's wake window nears its end, be extra mindful of signs of tiredness. When you start to notice sleep cues, try putting your baby down for a nap or for the night.

Remember, some babies' signs of tiredness can be much more subtle than yawning or rubbing their eyes, such as slowing down their tempo and losing interest in play or interacts less with the parent.

Explore and keep an eye on how the settling goes depending on how long your baby has been awake.

In Napper, you can log and get support from the algorithm to quickly figure out your baby's optimal wake windows. Napper also adjusts the wake window automatically as your baby grows.

1. Infant Sleep - Stanford Children's Health. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=infant-sleep-90-P02237

2. Adenosine and sleep: Understanding your sleep drive - Sleep Foundation, 2023-12-14. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/adenosine-and-sleep

3. Waking for feeding - Medical News Today, 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322565#waking-for-feeding

4. Wake windows and baby sleep - Taking Cara Babies. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://takingcarababies.com/wake-windows-and-baby-sleep/

5. Do wake windows help babies and kids nap better? - Dr Craig Canapari. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://drcraigcanapari.com/wake-windows

6. Effects of sleep deprivation - Sleep Foundation. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/effects-of-sleep-deprivation

7. Durham University. What’s really going on when a child is overtired – and how to help them go to sleep. - Durham University 2022-12-07, Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.durham.ac.uk/research/current/thought-leadership/whats-really-going-on-when-a-child-is-overtired--and-how-to-help-them-go-to-sleep/

8. How do I figure out my baby's wake windows? - Baby Sleep. Retrieved 2024-03-15., https://www.babysleep.com/sleep-advice/how-do-i-figure-out-my-babys-wake-windows/