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Understanding Baby Awake Windows and Sleep Pressure

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As you embark on this incredible journey with your precious little one, it’s important to understand the fascinating world of baby sleep. One crucial aspect to grasp is the concept of “awake windows” and “sleep pressure.” 

Awake Windows: Recognising the Ideal Time for Rest

Awake windows refer to specific periods of time that your baby can comfortably stay awake before needing to rest. These windows vary depending on your baby’s age and individual needs. By observing and noting your baby’s behaviour, you can identify the ideal duration of their awake windows.

Signs that your baby is ready for a nap and their awake window is closing include:

Yawning and rubbing eyes: Just like us, babies show these sleepy cues when they are tired.

Fussiness and crankiness: When babies are tired, they may become more irritable and fussier.

Decreased alertness: If your baby seems less engaged, has a shorter attention span, or becomes easily distracted, it may indicate that their awake window is closing.

Recognising these signs will help you create a sleep-friendly environment and ensure that your little one gets the rest they need.

Age-Based Guide to Awake Windows

Here is a guide to awake windows. Remember every child is different and these are a guide.

AgeAwake Window
0 – 6 weeks45mins – 1 hour
6 -12 weeks1 – 1 ½  hours
4 months1 ½  – 2 hours
5 months1 ¾  – 2 ½  hours
6 -7 months2 ½  – 3 hours
8 – 11 months3 – 4 hours
11 – 13 months3 ½ – 4 hours *
11 – 13 months5 – 5 ½ hours **
14/15 – 18 months5 – 6 hours
18 – 2 ½ years:5 – 6 hours
* on 2 naps ** on 1 nap

Sleep Pressure: Understanding the Build-Up of Tiredness

Sleep pressure is the natural build-up of tiredness that occurs as your baby stays awake. Think of it as a pressure cooker gradually reaching its maximum capacity. Sleep pressure helps your baby fall asleep and ensures that they get the right amount of restorative sleep, however when sleep pressure exceeds its maximum capacity, it’s time for your baby to nap or go to bed for the night to avoid overtiredness.

How can you gauge your baby’s sleep pressure?

Time awake: Younger babies generally have shorter awake windows due to their rapid growth and development. As your baby gets older, their awake windows gradually increase. Keep track of how long your baby has been awake to understand when they might be reaching their sleep pressure threshold.

Behaviour and cues: Pay close attention to your baby’s behaviour as they approach their awake window limit. They may become fussier, show signs of eye rubbing or yawning, or exhibit disinterest in their surroundings.

Understanding awake windows and sleep pressure is essential for establishing a healthy sleep routine for your baby. By aligning their sleep schedule with their natural sleep cues, you can promote better sleep and overall well-being.

If you need help establishing the right awake windows for your little one, or if they’re struggling with any aspect of their sleep – please do get in touch, I’d love to help.

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