The Magic in Wake Windows

Welcome to episode 2 of The Rockabye Mama Baby and Toddler Sleep Podcast. In today’s episode, we’re getting into wake windows, which truly can transform your child’s sleep.

Prefer to read a transcript of the podcast? Find it below!

Wake Windows Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Rockabye Mama Baby and Toddler sleep podcast. I’m your host, Katie Gutierrez, owner and lead sleep consultant at Rockabye Mama.

I am so happy that you found me here. I hope that through this podcast, I can empower and educate you on all things baby and toddler sleep.

Let’s get right to it!

The number one thing that changed my child’s sleep, and my understanding of it, was wake windows.

Wait, what’s a wake window?

A wake window is the amount of time your child can stay awake in any one stretch. It’s how long they can handle being awake.

If you keep them up longer than their wake window, they will be overtired, fussy, and have trouble sleeping.

If you put them to bed before their wake window, they will not be tired enough, which could result in a short nap, or shorter sleep cycle.

So how can you get your hands on this magic wake window guide?

I’ll include it in the show notes below, but I’m not going to go over the number in this podcast, because if you’re anything like me, hearing a whole lot of numbers is only going to confuse you and tune you out.

So once you get your wake window guide, what do you do with it?

Let’s go over a sample together.

Let’s say you have an 8 month old.

Well, an 8 month old has a wake window of 2.5-3.5 hours. Now don’t worry, I’ll get into the range of time in a minute.

But with your 8 month old, say they wake up at 7 am. If their wake window is 2.5-3.5 hours, then 2.5 hours after they wake up, which would be 9:30, they’re going to take their first nap.

They’re going to sleep so well and wake up 1.5 hours later at 11 a.m. When is their next nap?

Wake window is 2.5-3.5 hours, so at 2:00, 3 hours later, they’re taking their second nap.

And then when they wake up at 3:30. And 3.5 hours later, at 7, they’re going to bed for the night.

Now there are variations to that — that’s why they’re called windows — it’s a range of time. So you could put your child down at any time between 2.5 -3.5 hours. 

Why the range in numbers?

As I’m sure you know by now, no two children are the same. Children are people, not robots. They aren’t programmed to just go to sleep right when their wake window begins — it doesn’t work that way.

So the range in times allows for the variations in each child. So how do you know the best range for your child?

The goal is that when you lay your child down, they fall asleep within 10 minutes. If they don’t, and they’re laying there or crying, then you know they’re either overtired or undertired. This takes some experimentation on your part.

Always start at the lower end of the range, and work your way up.

If your child falls asleep the second you put them down, they’re probably overtired.

If your child is cranky and fussy during the day, they’re probably overtired.

Tune in to your child to figure out their ideal range.

Now you may be wondering, “Oh, so I just follow sleep cues, right?”

Well, not exactly.

If your child is a newborn, by all means, follow their lead. But once your child is over 4 months old, sleepy cues aren’t reliable.

-Children are bad judges of tiredness according to studies done

-Children wind up when tired, not wind down

-It’s hard to determine a difference in behavior — fussing can be overtired or undertired

-Children will yawn right when they wake up, so clearly sleepy cues aren’t reliable

It’s really best not to rely on sleepy cues all the time.

You may wonder, how long should you follow wake windows as opposed to a set schedule?

You’ll probably find it easiest to follow wake windows from the time your child is born until they are down to two naps.

Once they’re on a two nap schedule, it will be easier to switch to a set schedule where you follow the clock.

Here are a few general rules about wake windows: 

-Your child’s wake windows should be shorter in the morning and gradually lengthen while they go on about their day.

-Don’t become stressed. If you’re finding yourself overly stressing about their wake windows and constantly watching the clock, then scale back. Find a pattern and stick to it.

Wake windows have transformed so many of my families’ lives because they didn’t realize their children were overtired which was the cause of so many issues. I hope that today’s topic has helped provide you the first step to take when analyzing your child’s schedule and habits.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to receive daily tips to help you with your child’s sleep. Thank you for tuning in today, and I can’t wait to welcome you back next week.

Sweet Dreams!

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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