How Can You Help Your Baby Sleep Well During the Day?
One of the biggest myths is that when a baby is tired enough, they will fall asleep on their own. In reality, most children can't fall asleep by themselves when tired and quickly shift from a state of tiredness to over-tiredness. Over-tiredness leads to an increase in adrenaline and cortisol in their body - in other words, the child won't be able to fall asleep soon, or at least not without protest or a battle with mom/dad.
How can you find the right time to put your baby to sleep without reaching over-tiredness?
The "Wake Window"
„Wake Window“ = "Awake Window" = Awake Interval
It's important to know what the most suitable "Wake Window" is for our child. Why? Because when we hit the right wake interval:
- We easily put the baby to sleep for the next nap or nighttime sleep
- The child's sleep becomes more peaceful and consolidated
- The baby wakes up in a good mood and ready to play
Both options can possibly cause:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Fragmented sleep and/or too short a nap
- Waking up crying (each time after sleep)
- Frequent nighttime awakenings
- Waking up very early in the morning (before 6:00 am)
How Can We Find the Right Time to Put the Baby to Sleep?
There are certain periods during the day when it's most appropriate to put the child to sleep. During these periods, the pressure to sleep is high, the child falls asleep easily, sleeps peacefully, and wakes up in a good mood.
Take a look at the table below. There you will find information on how much sleep your baby needs during the day and how long the "Wake Window" should be.
|Age||Awake Window||Number of naps||Nap duration||Total daytime sleep|
|Newborn||45 – 60 min.||5 naps or more||15 min. – 4 hours||Sleeps all day, wakes up to feed|
|1 month||60 – 90 min.||4 – 5||40 min. – 3 hours||5 – 7 hours|
|2 months||60 – 90 min.||4 – 5||40 min. – 3 hours||5 – 7 hours|
|3 months||90 min.||4||40 min. – 2:30 hours||4 – 6 hours|
|4 months||1:45 – 2:00 hours||3 – 4||40 min. – 2:30 hours||4 – 5 hours|
|5 months||2:00 – 2:15 hours||2 – 4||40 min. – 2:30 hours||3 – 4 hours|
|6 months||2:15 – 2:30 hours||2 – 4||40 min. – 2:30 hours||2:30 – 4:30 hours|
|7 months||2:45 hours (up to 3:00)||2 – 3||1 – 2 hours||2 – 4 hours|
|8 months||3:30 hours (3:00 – 4:00)||2 – 3||1 – 2 hours||2 – 4 hours|
|9 months||3:45 hours (3:00 – 4:00)||2||1 – 1:30 hours||2 – 4 hours|
|10 months||3:00 – 4:00 hours||2||1 – 1:30 hours||2 – 3 hours|
|11 months||3:30 – 4:30 hours||2||1 – 1:30 hours||2 – 3 hours|
|12 months||3:30 – 4:30 hours||1 – 2||–||2 – 3 hours|
|13 – 18 months||3:30 – 4:30 hours (with 2 naps per day)
5 часа (with 1 nap per day)
|1 – 2||–||2 – 3 hours|
|19 – 23 months||5 – 6 hours||1||1:30 – 2:00||1 – 2:30 hours|
|2 years||5 – 6 hours||1||–||1 – 2 hours|
|3 years||6 hours (with 1 nap)||1||–||1-2 hours|
Remember, these are guideline values! For more information, you can read the article "How much sleep does your baby need?".
Deviations from the norm are absolutely normal! Each child is unique. The important thing is to seek the right sleep - wake rhythm for your child.
It's highly likely that your baby's wake window varies during the day. It's perfectly normal:
- The first "Wake Window" (wake interval immediately after the child wakes up in the morning) is significantly shorter than the rest.
- Often, the last "Wake Window" (the one before night sleep) is a bit longer than the others.
- It's possible that after a long nap, your child can easily handle a longer wake interval.
- But after a short nap, they may need to go to sleep earlier for the next sleep (have a short awake window).
When do regular naps most often occur in babies?
Around 3-4 months (12-16 weeks), because during this period, the baby's sleep pattern starts to resemble that of adults. In most children, the process occurs in the following order:
- First, a regular morning nap will occur.
- A few weeks later, a regular early afternoon nap will appear.
- Finally, a regular late afternoon nap will be established (a few hours before nighttime sleep).
What is the Difference Between Sleep Schedule and 'Wake Window'?
The 'Wake Window' and Sleep Schedules are two different tools that often complement each other.
When we know the optimal wake window for the child, we can easily develop a good sleep schedule - determine the optimal number of daytime naps and their duration, place the necessary number of feedings for the child, and allocate enough time for games and entertainment.
Of course, many parents choose not to follow a strict sleep schedule! Especially when the child is under 1 year of age. In this case, the 'Wake Window' will help us understand when is the best time to put the baby to sleep. Activities occurring during wake intervals can then be tailored to the baby's and parents' immediate needs.
There are so many books written to guide parents on how to raise kids. This is because every child is unique - strategies that work for one may not work for another. So, the best way to parent is to really understand your own child. This includes knowing their sleep habits, when they need to be active and accommodate to these needs.
Facing issues with an overtired child? Let's address your questions.
Chronic fatigue affects a child directly. It changes their behavior, mood, health, and even their ability to learn and grow.
Why is it so hard for an over-tired child to fall asleep?
Fatigue leads to a cocktail of hormones in the baby's body, making them feel stimulated and suppressing sleep. Lack of daytime sleep leads to night awakenings because of the built-up fatigue. So, good daytime sleep improves night sleep.
What are the main signs of an overtired baby?
Your baby may become:
- Easily irritable
- Grumpy and unhappy
- Cries heavily and is hard to calm
- Arching their back when picked up
- Raises their legs and "bounces" in bed
- In infants, fatigue can look like colic symptoms
What do you do when your child has a hard time falling asleep and has short naps?
Over-tiredness often leads to difficulty falling asleep and short naps lasting 15-30 minutes. When this happens, make sure to shorten the wake window!
What should we do if the baby always wakes up crying?
When a child is over-tired, they often wake up in a bad mood (crying, grumbling). Again, shorten the awake time between by 10-20 minutes.
What to do if the baby wakes up crying right after going to sleep for the night?
Another sign of overtiredness is when your child goes to sleep for the night and, about an hour later, wakes up crying. In this case, extend the duration of the bedtime routine and reduce the last awake windows for the day by about 20-30 minutes (in other words, put the child to sleep earlier for the night).
Don't make changes when your child is sleeping well!
When your baby:
- Falls asleep easily
- Wakes up in a wonderful mood both in the morning and after daytime sleep
- Sleeps peacefully during the night time
You've found the golden mean. I advise you to set aside all norms & recommendations and simply not change anything!
Finding the Right Sleep Solution
If you are struggling with your baby's daytime sleep, know that you are not alone and that help is available. Finding the right balance to ensure your baby gets adequate sleep during the day without pushing them to the brink of over-tiredness can be tricky. This balance not only depends on their age and development but also on their unique needs and temperament.
As a certified child sleep consultant, I understand the nuances of baby sleep and can help you navigate the often confusing landscape of nap times, sleep cues, and over-tiredness.
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