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Sleep Science: Wake windows and Sleep totals

Wake windows are one of those sleep things that parents tend to obsess over, and has kind of become a buzz word in the sleep industry in the past couple of years, but truth be told there are no research to back it up. The information shared in this post is best used as a guideline, and is not meant to be followed strictly. All babies and children are unique, so there aren't any set wake window times or daily sleep totals that will be the same for every baby - it's just impossible.


The best advice I can give you is to tune into your baby, get to know their sleepy ques, play around with shortening or lengthening their wake windows until you find their sweet spot and not stress over it too much!


The lowdown on wake windows:

There is a massive variation between wake window needs for babies and children - some do better with a shorter window, some need a longer wake window for optimal sleep pressure build up. There really aren't any hard rules here.

You ultimately need to find what works for your specific baby, so follow their lead and try to lean more on their unique sleepy ques rather than what the "books" say.


Before I give you the recommended wake windows, here are a few things I want you to know:

  • Use the information below as a starting point only.

  • Experiment by lengthening or shortening the wake window with about 10-15 minutes to find your baby's sweet spot.

  • Take your baby/child's total daily sleep needs into account when trying to figure out nap times and bedtime

  • Your baby/child's wake window can be adjusted by about 10-15 minutes every month or so.

  • You DO NOT need to stress or obsess over wake windows! It's such a small piece of the overall sleep puzzle.

Suggested wake windows by age:


Your newborn baby won't be able to tolerate too much awake time before needing another nap. From 0-8 weeks the average wake window is about 45-60minutes.

This slowly lengthens and by 2-3months your baby might be able to stay awake for 60-90minutes.



Sleep totals:


Whereas wake windows are currently super overrated (in my opinion), I believe daily sleep totals are severely underrated and maybe not-as-known about.

Sleep totals refer to the total number of hours of sleep your baby/child needs in 24 hours, including naps and night-time sleep.


When looking at the average sleep totals for age listed below, take not of how wide the variation is. Considering this, how can there possibly a one-size-fits-all plan that will work for all babies?



So, how do you determine your baby/child's sleep total?


It's calculated by logging all of their daily sleep in 24 hours.

For example: If your baby's day looks like this:

Nap 1: 1.5 hours

Nap 2: 1 hour

Bedtime: 19:30

Morning wake: 6:00 (making night time sleep approximately 10.5 hours)

Your baby's sleep total will be around the 13 hour mark.


You can log their sleep for a week and see what the average is for their sleep total needs in 24 hours.


Why would you want to know about sleep totals?

Well, this information can help you:

  • set an appropriate bedtime

  • determine when to start capping or dropping naps

  • figure out sudden split nights or early morning wakes

  • figure out why your baby is experiencing more fragmented sleep than usual

  • etc.

A common concern I hear from parents is knowing whether their babies are getting enough sleep.

If your baby is growing, learning and developing well, and if your baby is waking up happy and ready for their wake time, they are most likely getting enough sleep.


Remember: Every child is unique, and so are their sleep needs. Don't let Suzie down the road stress you out because her baby is sleeping "xyz hours" by whatever age. If what you're doing is working for your family, there is no need to change a thing.


xoxo

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