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Learning When Your Baby is Tired and Their Awake Windows

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In this blog I am going to discuss how to use awake windows and your baby’s sleepy cues to help your baby sleep more restfully.

I talk about awake windows and sleepy cues often as they are two of the things that are integral to having some control over how tired your baby is or could be. You may be wondering, what are awake windows and what are the signs my baby is tired?

Overtiredness is one of the main causes of a baby struggling to go down for their naps and night time sleep.  When your baby does not get the amount of hours sleep required for their age throughout the day, they tend to struggle with going down happily for their sleep. This could also happen if they are awake for too long before going to sleep. Even if they do go to sleep (and sometimes they can fall to sleep super quickly) they may very likely wake quickly, wake up too early in the morning (before 6am) and have more night wakings’.

How is over tiredness presented?

Overtiredness can be presented through some classic tired signs and they indicate that your little maybe on their way or have already gone over the precipice for their ideal awake window before their nap / bedtime.

Tired signs can be displayed through:


      • Tugging on their ears.

      • Arching their backs but also flaking limbs.

      • Eye rubbing.

      • Hair pulling.

      • Being fussy / crying.

    What signs do I want to be noticing that tell me my little one is ready for sleep?

    When your little one is ready for sleep there are subtle signs (sleepy cues) that you can see and learn to read to avoid over tiredness. Sleep cues look like: 


        • Staring off into the distance / glazed look.

        • No longer interested in whatever activity they were doing.

        • Yawning.

        • Eyes staring off into the distance.

        • Calm.

      Awake Windows

      An awake window is the time that your little one is awake between naps and before bedtime. An awake window indicates the amount of time a little one can be awake for before they start to become over tired. Awake windows are an average and so bear this in mind when following my guide. Every little one is different but 15 minutes either side can mean the difference between being under or over-tired and so this is why it is important to learn your little ones ‘sleepy cues’.

      My guide timings are there to make sure your little ones goes down for their sleep within the average amount of time so they have enough but not too much sleep pressure for their age to help prevent nap refusal or short naps. Having the right awake window will result in your little one being ready for sleep and having good quality sleep. When families work with me we figure out the awake window for your little one but it is possible to work out yourself (see below).

      I recommend using this guide as a starting point to look out for signs of tiredness and then tweak them based on what seems appropriate for your little one. If you want to have a go at sleep teaching yourself may I suggest learning your little ones sleepy cues and recording the times they start to show signs of being tired using the below timings as a guide.

      • 0-6 week: 45mins – 60 minutes
      • 6-12 weeks: 1 – 1 ½ hours
      • 4 months: 1 ½ – 2 hours
      • 5 months: 1 ¾ – 2 ½ hours
      • 6-7 months: 2 ½ – 3 hours
      • 8-11 months: 3 – 4 hours
      • 11-13 months (2 naps): 3 ½ – 4 hours
      • 11-13 months (1 nap): 5 – 5 ½ hours
      • 14/15-18 months: 5 – 6 hours

      Working in harmony

      Sleep cues and awake windows are best used together when you are trying to figure out the ideal time for your little one to sleep.

      Whilst I use an average to determine your baby’s awake window based on their age it is important to recognise that every little one is different, and they may not slip into the average recommendation.  If you want to try to teach your child to sleep without my support I suggest making a diary of their recommended awake window and the times they start to show their sleepy cues and tired signs to help you get an average awake window for your little one

      If you learn that their tolerance for being awake is not near the recommended, you may need a little guidance and so feel free to jump on a free 15 minute phone call to see how I can help you.

      Get in touch and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep.

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