Exclusive Wake-Time Formula – Your Missing Link For Great Baby Sleep

A guest article by Angela Braden. Angela blogs at www.sciencemommy.weebly.com

Nap times go array when we miss the “sleep window”—that magic snippet of time in which baby is primed for la la land and will drift off peacefully (in the right environment). Perhaps you’ve seen your baby’s sleep window open—a glazed look, a yawn, or some agitated movements (depending on age)—but by the time you finished that bite of food, changed the diaper, and swaddled, that window had slammed shut on you! One missed window can set in motion a vicious cycle of overtired, short naps and more disturbed night sleep. Going by a strict schedule can be problematic too, because every night and every nap is different, (particularly in the first six months). You usually end up with a baby who’s overtired or under tired at the “scheduled” sleep time.

So should you watch the baby (for signs of sleepiness) or watch the clock in order to put baby to sleep during her sleep window? The answer is “both”, but here’s how: The heart of consistently successful “sleep window synchrony” (my term) is staying within an optimum “wake time” zone. (Wake time is the duration of wakefulness between sleep times, counting the time it takes to soothe your baby to sleep.)

Simply put, wake time is the single most powerful determinant of when your baby will need to sleep again! Knowing the best wake time will help you stay ahead of overtired like nothing else, because you’ll be ahead of those tricky sleepy cues too (some babies are just hard to read!).

Below, exclusively for The Baby Sleep Site, I’ve outlined my secret formulas for knowing when baby’s “wake time” is going to expire. The formulas vary by age, so look for your baby’s age range to know which number to start with, then “tweak it” with the factors that follow and you’ll have a nearly exact predictor of when your baby next needs to snooze. (You should still keep logs to optimize for individual differences, until you’ve got it down.)

Here’s why these formulas have proven to be golden in terms of avoiding healthy sleep enemy #1, overtired: They factor in the second most powerful determinant (in my opinion) of when baby needs sleep—duration of the last sleep time (age of baby is the first factor). Since babies through at least six or seven months normally have erratic sleep durations—some naps last 20 minutes, some 2 hours—we have to factor in duration or we’re shooting in the dark for that critical sleep window.

I discovered with my little one, and later through consulting for other mommies, that for young babies (particularly zero to four months), the duration of the previous sleep time, predicts the next wake time! After around six months, baby should be taking the full, one-hour-minimum, naps anyway (most of the time), so we can look more to the age-determined wake times, though duration can still be a factor.

The Wake Time Formulas

0 to 1 month – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time, up to 40 minutes max.

Newborns are rarely awake longer than it takes them to feed and have a diaper change. If they don’t doze back quickly, they need our help to make sleep happen in time! Of course, if baby goes to sleep sooner, don’t try to keep a newborn awake for the full 40 minutes.

*Note: During what is often called, “the witching hour” (or in my case, full blown colic time) many newborns simply will not sleep for hours on end, despite your best soothing efforts. This doesn’t mean they don’t need to! This is the time to really take Nicole’s sleep-inducing tips to heart. Diligence pays and every bit of extra sleep you get out of baby during this time will help in the big picture, even in the long run, after colic has passed.

1 to 2 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 40 to 60 minutes.
During these months, the best rule of thumb is the duration of the last nap, since nap length is biologically a work in progress for babies at this stage. Plan to put back to sleep within one hour of wakefulness (or less if last sleep period was less). Lean closer to 40 minutes for colicky/sensitive babies, especially during the morning hours. (Also see “witching hour” note above.)

2 to 3 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 60 to 80 minutes.
At this age, if baby sleeps less than 45 minutes, you should immediately try to continue the nap (by rocking, soothing, etc.) to equal at least 45 minutes, but if your attempts are unsuccessful (as they often will be), simply calculate wake time by the sleep duration, instead of max time.

3 to 4 months – Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 60 to 90 minutes.
Yawn or no yawn …cranky or not…. At 50 minutes or so (depending on tweaking factors below), begin your nap time wind down routine, aiming to have baby asleep within this range.

4 to 6 months: Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Baby usually has developed three somewhat predictable naps, but the wake time is still a more important indicator of the sleep window, than the “scheduled” nap.

6-8 months: Look for wakeful periods to begin to stretch to 2.5 hours without becoming overtired, provided that the naps are not too short. Nap duration is less of a factor now. The first nap of the day will still need to occur a bit earlier (within 2 hours).

*Note: Activity level now becomes a factor, because many babies are mobile. If your little one has had a very active wake time, you may need to tweak in the earlier direction 10 minutes or so.

8-10 months: Wake time – 2 to 3.5 hours. For the first two naps, wake time should be between 2 and 2.5 hours, so you’re starting with just one three hour period of wakefulness per day (the one before bedtime).This range depends greatly on whether baby has dropped the third nap (usually at 9 months). Generally, thereafter, the 3.5 hour wake time works (from the time baby drops the third nap) until baby drops the second nap between 14 and 18 months (approximately).

Tweak It Factors

Now that you know the range to shoot for, here’s how you can hone in on a more precise prediction of the infamous closing sleep window.

  • Time of day: As noted above, the morning nap (from the morning wake up) usually will still need to happen at the early end of the given range. The later time given applies to the longer period of wakefulness in the late afternoon/early evening.
  • Temperament/Colic or post-Colic: With colicky babies, always go with the shorter wake time and keep a log to pinpoint even further. Once colic has passed, at around 3 months for most babies, these sensitive little ones still need this shorter wake time, especially in the morning. The same applies to babies who are sensitive to over-stimulation (but may not be considered “colicky).
  • Quality and quantity of night sleep: Usually, if baby has a bad night, he will close his sleep deficient with the length of his nap, but it’s worth checking out Nicole’s night sleep totals and if your baby gets less night sleep and takes a short nap, move that wake time back to the shorter end.

Every baby is different, but the vast majority will fall within these ranges. (Most babies are also chronically overtired!)

This “Wake time formula” is the clock-watching part of knowing when to facilitate baby’s next nap, but it’s the antithesis of rigid scheduling. It gives you a starting point from which to log what works best for your baby, as regular naps develop.

Please let me know how these formulas are working for you!

Angela Braden is mother of Kian, 5 and Gianna, 17 months. She has researched and reported on wellness and lifestyle for a decade and a half and been published hundreds of times in national and international magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health and Fitness, and Lucire (New Zealand). Angela served as a columnist and healthy lifestyle expert on TBS for 2 years. She swears her two babies are angels…but only when they’ve had optimum sleep.

©2012 by Angela Braden. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Angela Braden.


  1. Maryam says

    So what is the name of the formula that you wamt us to try & see if its working?!

  2. Stephanie says

    Great article! Neither of my girls are infants anymore (1 & 3), but I hope I can try this with my next baby.

    Do you have any formulas on calculating wake times for toddlers? Especially 1 year olds who are still on a 2 nap/day schedule?

  3. Angela says


    Hi! I wrote this article. Yes, I’m looking for feedback on the formulas – whichever applies to the age of your baby, outlined above. let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

    Good question. the formulas are really to tackle overtired in the first year because that’s when baby’s fuse is so short (or nonexistent) once they’re ready for sleep. For toddlers, you typically have a little more wiggle worm before overtired starts sabotaging everything ; 0
    For the one year old, are you getting naps at least an hour long usually?

  4. Liz says

    The “90 minute sleep solution” worked for us. Its written by a neuroscientist .The premise is that babies have ultradian rhythms (similar to circadian rhythms). Each baby had their unique pattern, but usually they get tired in increments of 90 minutes. If you start to soothe them before that wakeful period is up they will fall asleep easily. At 8 months old, Our baby had a 90 minute wakefulness period in the morning & 3 hr wake period after the morning nap.

    Ultradian rythms also explained why our baby would wake after 3 or 6 hours after we put her to bed. I encourage everyone to check out the book. It was the simplest sleep method for us, I wish I’d found it sooner for our refluxy, colicky baby!

  5. Angela says

    I meant wiggle ROOM ; ) on that reply to Stephanie.

    @Liz, did your baby stay awake that long when she was younger? In my experience, it depends a great deal on age. For your 8 month old, this 90 min. wake time would fall perfectly into the formula above, because for post colicky babies, you have to lean toward the shorter wake time. You might also notice that she can stay awake closer to two hours after the morning nap, but not before it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Valerie says

    My almost 5 month old still takes 30 minute naps, unless it’s in the swing. So according to the formula, wake time should be no longer than her last nap? I’ll be doing this all day! If I stick to it should it help with her short naps?

  7. says

    Hello! I have a very short napper and have tried EVERYTHING to get him to nap longer including following wake time schedules. I have read about similar wake time formulas from various resources but my 7 months old just does not seem tired at these times! If I try to get him to nap within these time frames he will eventually fall asleep but spends 20-30 min in his crib chattering and rolling around. Yesterday I thought I found the magic key. About 2 hours and 45 minutes after he woke up he started to get fussy. I did a little mini nap time wind down routine. Put him in his crib and he peacefully fell asleep in 5 minutes and slept for 1 hour! I did the exact same thing for his second nap but he only slept 40 minutes. I tried to get him to take one more cat nap later in the day (since I knew he couldn’t make it until bedtime) but he WOULD NOT NAP! So I put him to bed early and he had a terrible night! Are these wake times just too long? Am I missing something here? I’ve tried shorter wake times but he still naps less than an hour! We are really struggling with this!

  8. Angela says

    @Valerie, Hi! I’m the author of this article. At 5 months, duration is becoming slightly less of a factor. You may get away with 44-60 minutes, after the short nap. I’d focus more on lengthening the nap- it’s ok to use the swing if you have to temporarily. Absolutely, if you can get on top of the overtired, it should help get longer naps out of her and that will snowball in a positive way. Can you wake her at the same time every morning and make sure to avoid overtired before the first nap by winding her down/doing a little nap routine around an hour after she wakes? If it takes her another 30 minutes to fall asleep, you’ll know you can push it the next morning, but ensuring you avoid overtired from the start of the day will give you the best chance of a solid nap. If it’s a least an hour, you can ignore the duration and go by the max wake time formula alone. Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

  9. Kasey says


    I have two questions. My son will be 7 months on the 11th. We started sleep training st 3 months and he took to it very well and very quickly. In the beginning he would take a few long naps a week and of course 45 the rest of the time. Now in the past few months we never get a long nap. An hour is unheard of and lately they’re only 30 minutes and sometimes not even the typical 45. I always had him asleep right around 80 minutes awake until a month or so ago. He could start handling longer and would fight naps hard core before 2 hours. Now he’s fighting 2 hour awake so I’m testing out 2.5 hours awake today. We go to MyGym classes and we take swim lessons, he plays a lot. No matter what we do, “wearing him out” doesn’t equate to longer naps. I’ve used CIO. Everything. He sleeps great at night…bed is 6:45 and doesn’t wake till 5:45/6. Sometimes before but rarely. He wakes earlier in the morning if I put him down later. I’d ideally like him to be closer to the 6:30 mark but I understand that I can’t be too picky :)

    My main questions in that giant run on paragraph are what am I missing to get his naps longer??

    And is there a way to get him to sleep later and go to bed later? I’m dreading the time change on November 4th and wanted to slowly increase things but that backfires for us.


    P.s. he just took a nap after swim lessons, errands, and a 2.5 hour wake time, fell asleep almost right away when I put him down…and he just woke up fussing after 32 minutes. At a loss.

  10. says

    I have a 15.5 month old who has always taken short naps (just in the last few months has 1 hour become the norm) even though he gets 12-13 hours of night sleep. He’s transitioning to 1 nap and although I’ve decided to just push him to a nap at noon rather than struggle with 2 and a late bedtime, I am wondering if 5-6 hours of wake time is pretty bad. Hoping his 1 nap lengthens!!! )c: But considering a nap over an hour is extremely rare, I worry that it won’t.

  11. Amy says

    My 10 month old is fighting two naps a day right now. Some days she won’t take her morning nap, other days she won’t take her afternoon nap. It is making me crazy because she is definitely getting overtired but I don’t think she is ready to switch to one nap a day… although at this point I might try it because on the days she does have one nap its usually at least 2 hours long. Should I be waking her earlier in the morning to make sure she takes her two naps? I figure if she needs to sleep later its because she is tired and it seems mean to wake her up! Plus I do enjoy the mornings when i get to sleep in a bit… Everyday is different now and its very frustrating to plan anything!

  12. Valerie says

    @Angela. We have the same nap routine every morning and goes down easily without crying if I hit the window. It’s usually within an hour of waking up in the morning. I’ve been able to hit that window pretty good. Still, if she falls asleep easily or cries, the naps are still only 30 minutes. I can predict it! She sleeps well at night with a good night routine. I feel lost! Same story with naps throughout the day.

  13. Katherine says

    I kept a sleep chart for both of my daughters and agree with this article, there definitely seems to be a “window” when they are ripe for naps and if you miss it, it can be very hard to get them to nap and this throws the whole day off! I think this is because for hundreds of thousands of generations before us, we were not distracted by emails, phones, or the myriad chores that get in the way of us acting promptly on this sleep window. We napped the moment we were tired (unless we were being chased by a lion, of course.) Also, sleep begets sleep, which means it gets easier if you act on the first signs of tiredness- the next nap will go smoother and likely be longer. Great article.

  14. Angela says

    @Kristin, two hours and 45 is too long for most 7 month olds and once he gets fussy, he’s past his window. Taking 20 minutes to fall asleep is normal and you were doing the right thing by putting him in the crib before he got tired.

    The only exception to this, I have to note, is if baby is crying. I don’t want this article to be taken as pro-CIO. I mean wind them down in whatever way you normally do, not leave them to cry (unless that’s your choice). Are the nights normally good when you stick to limited daytime wake times?

  15. Stephanie says


    Yes, my one year old naps 2X per day, at least 1 hr a piece. The morning nap is usually longer, at 1.5 hours (8:30 – 10), with the afternoon being just an hour, (1 – 2 pm). We are stuck in the early to bed, early to rise trap. She goes down easily at 6 pm, gets up by 5:30 a.m. I need to shift her nighttime sleep, but it’s so hard because I know she will get overtired in the process. Thanks again for the article!

  16. Liz says

    I didn’t find out about the 90 minute rule until baby was older, so I can’t remember exactly when her awake time jumped from 90 min to 3 hrs, but it probably began around 4 months. She had insomnia early on due to severe reflux and side effects from reflux meds. Poor baby!

    For the little ones, I think they were supposed to nap 90 minutes after they wake up from each nap. Then as they get older their pattern of awake time changes & lengthens.

  17. Angela says

    @kasey, Was the sleep training around the same time as his shift to shorter naps? You said a few months ago, so thought it possible. If he’s had a lot of distress surrounding that there are possibilities related to that experience. For sure though, the 2 hr. and 45 m wake time is too long and confirmed by the quick drop off to sleep and likely the cause of the short naps. I hear that he’s fighting the naps, but that’s more likely due to his drive to play/explore, discover and not that he’s not tired. try experimenting with more/different elements of the wind-down routine – i think that’s your key. great job wearing him out, though. keep that up but add in some super relaxing things like lullabies, rocking. Even some things that might have been considered “sleep props” before, now that he’s sleep trained and sleeping through the night, you might get away with it – something to think about, as long as it’s used only to the point of drowsiness and not all the way knocked out.

  18. Natasha says

    My baby is 6month old now and has been a poor day sleeper since birth. She slept through the night from 10 weeks but after getting ill and being in hospital for a week at 19 weeks she now wakes at least once a night, every night. She seems permanently tired and often screams with tiredness. She has always needed a lot of help to go to sleep and despite lots of attempts to try and train her to fall asleep in her cot by herself, nothing has worked and I have to gte her to sleep in my arms, and then put her down. In the night she usually wakes as I put her down but is happy to go down and falls back to sleep. In the day, if I put her down, she cries. If I manage to get her down without waking her, she often wakes after 10 minutes and cries and can only be settled if I pick her up and cuddle her back to sleep. The bottom line is, to have any long nap (more than 10 minutes) I have to hold her, or drive her around, It is becoming the bane of my life! I feel it’s compromising everything else as she isn’t eating properly and is grumpy a lot of the time :( I am going to try the suggestions in the article to break the overtired cycle and then try to get her to send herself to sleep. I think I am going to have an uphill struggle now that she is in bad habits by 6 months!

  19. Angela says

    @Kasey, re your 2nd question, hang in there a couple months, that can shift as he gets older. Start moving the bedtime later by 15m (in a couple months) and note if he’s waking earlier. Right now, you’re doing the right thing by putting him to bed super early and you’re getting a long night undisturbed- good job!

  20. Elsa says

    Can you provide actual examples of the formulas? I may sound dim witted for this, but I’m not following the logic on how this is supposed to show me when my 3 1/2 month old should be put down for his next nap.

  21. Kasey says

    Thanks for the reply!! I put him down for his last (3rd) nap today at dactyl 2:15 minutes. He chatted and blabbed for a minute and then fell asleep just about 5 minutes before 2:30 awake. Would you consider a bottle a sleep prop now? When we sleep trained, he had no binkie and no nursing. We went from play to wind down to sleep. We still do that now (wind down includes the same instrumental music every nap and bedtime and a little rocking) but I notice if I do give him a bottle (he takes one 2 oz bottle a day for probiotics), he calms down perfectly and goes to sleep well on his own. So usually I do that before his 3rd nap of the day to insure he gets that last bit of rest needed for a good nights sleep. He never falls asleep nursing but it gets him very calm and out of his play mode. We also give him a binkie now for naps. He is able to put it in almost always by himself so it hasn’t become an issue. If it does come out and out won’t go in, I give it time then help. So far it’s a non-issue and he doesn’t take one at all at night. From what ive learned, night and day sleep are different parts of the brain, so at night he definitely knows no binkie and no nursing to sleep.

    As for nap trauma, he was taking 2.5 hour morning naps POST sleep training for a while. Training was at 3 months and he was taking those long naps through 4 months. :-/ so if he does have some sort of CIO/training trauma, will it pass with time or have I scarred him into short napping forever?

    Thank u!! Your help is very appreciated!

  22. Kasey says

    Elsa I think she means the awake time for a 3.5 month, you want to keep him awake no longer than 60/90 minutes but awake time can be as short as 40 minutes if that’s how short the precious nap was. I think :)

  23. Angela says

    @Kendra, my expertise is focused on the first year, but I will say, with a toddler, you can usually see signs. If you try the nap at noon, but baby is iritable by 11, it’s not going to work well. I’ll let Nicole respond to this more – she’s a toddler guru ; ) good luck!

    @Amy, a 10 month old def. needs 2 naps. I’m afraid you’d be inviting trouble if you try to go to one. Whichever way you decide to handle wake up time, make it the same time everyday. habit is a powerful tool at this age, you can get habit working for you if you try to make the naps happen at the same time every day. Nicole has a lot of great articles on naps – look under “categories” on the home page. wake times are one important facet, but routines, hunger, and environment are vital to mastering naps. good luck!

  24. Angela says

    @Valerie, are you ok with using the swing temporarily to get habit on your side?Check with your ped, but it should recline fully and baby should not be over the weight limit (sorry for stating obvioust here). At this age, they need all the help they can get because biologically, naps are still developing. Morning wake up and first nap sound right on! I’d look closely at environment (low, strong, white noise can’t be overemphasized) Dr. Harvey Karp’s new sleep book has some excellent tips, too and his CD of white noise is excellent.

    Sounds you understand having a good on routine and you know what it looks like when you hit the sleep window, so that’s great. How are nights?

  25. Angela says

    @Stephanie, can you push the second nap to 1:30 without getting overtired? If so, then try pushing bedtime to 6:30. It should be fine with the beautiful schedule you’ve established, but if am wake up doesn’t follow suite, or if she seems overtired in the morning, you might need to keep to this (nearly flawless) routine for a bit longer, then try pushing forward again in a month or so. I bet she’s a happy girl ; )

  26. Angela says

    @Katherine, thanks so much for the feedback! Couldn’t agree more – It often helps to think like a cave woman!

    @Liz, thanks for confirming that – 90 m is great wake time for an older baby, but way to much for under 4 months. Sorry your little one had trouble in the early days. It can be so hard!

    @Natasha, you must be exhausted and overwhelmed. First, know that all babies are “bad sleepers” as newborns. Actually, their short sleep cycles may have some protective benefits, buy they seem “bad” to us when we have to get up at all hours ; ) You’re little on sleeping through the night at 10 weeks is actually exceptional.

    When babies have been in the hospital, it often disrupts their feeling of security because it’s not possible for them to get the holding and physical contact they naturally need. As hard as it is to accomodate, the truth is your baby needs your affection and patience at sleep time to mend psychologically. It truly sounds like she is a bit traumatized (but she can heal!) Don’t worry to much about the long term habits. Take it one day at a time, one hurdle at a time (as you said by avoiding overtired), while indulging her with all the comfort you can at sleep times. This will build her security, then she will be able to gradually begin to self sooth. Rebuilding her security must come first. If you push too hard or too fast it can make things worse. Any friends relatives you can call on to help you get through this period? It is not permanent! Please call us at the Baby Sleep Site if we can help you further. And remember, the more you take care of yourself the better you’ll be able to help your baby through this.

  27. Leslie says

    I have a 10 week old that consistently naps for only 45 minutes. I have done many things to try to extend the nap such as shorten the wake time, go in and soothe at the 40 minute mark, go in and put the pacifier in at first sign of waking, feeding her right before she naps, and letting her try to settle for 10 minutes (fusses at first, but then screams). Once in a while I can extend the nap for another sleep cycle and get an hour and a half, but this is not the norm.

    Any advice? Do I just need to wait it out? From the moment she wakes up, she rarely lasts longer than an hour and fifteen minutes before I swaddle and do her nap routine.

  28. Angela says

    @Elsa, thanks for asking! The formula for your 3.5 m old is: Wake time = Duration of the last sleep time up to max, 60 to 90 minutes. So, you should shoot for 60 min wake time before the first nap. If it’s a full nap (at least 45 min) then your wake time before the next nap is 60-90 min depending on night sleep, temperament, and the other “tweaking factors”. 90 min. for the remaining naps (not the first nap) should be fine and remember, this is just a reference point, you should still watch your baby’s cues and record times and results to really nail down the perfect schedule for your baby. Let us know how it goes, will you?

  29. Fiona says

    Thanks for this article, Angela. My two children are as different as night and day. My second child loves to sleep at home in his cot. Out and about in the pram, car seat and Ergo carrier, he only catnaps. He has been like this since 3 weeks old and is now almost 5 months. My two year old at that age, always slept far better out and about, she would sleep just about anywhere except her cot – in her cot she would never sleep more than the 45 min cycle (occasionally might do over an hour if she was super super tired) and only until about 2 months after dropping to one nap she finally started sleeping over an hour – lately she’s even extended a bit more to sleep 90 mins or more.

    I guess all that is to say that I have learnt the environment can be such a huge factor, and I think perhaps my kids’ personalities have played into it. But unfortunately we can’t always tailor the environment, I.e. with my daughter I had to be home too, I couldn’t just always be out and about to provide her with her preferred sleep environments. But with my son it is the opposite, we can’t just stay home all day as there are errands to run and a an energetic toddler

  30. Angela says

    @Leslie, you are doing exactly the right things to extend the nap, but 45 mins is a full sleep cycle and you guessed it . . . you may have to wait it out a bit. But I do think it’s interesting to note that the letting her try to resettle and fuss and the soothing her just as she’s waking are opposite experiences for her. Possibly, if you stuck with the the soothing through, just as you described (before she’s fully awake) you might see better results. But you might have to wait a bit for those results ; ) Since you are able to nudge her into the next cycle some of the time, I bet those times you’re successful will increase gradually. Keep doing what you’re doing but def. keep to a shorter wake time starting with the first morning nap. An hour and 15 may be too long before the first nap.

  31. Fiona says

    Whoops hit submit too soon!

    I was going to say an energetic toddler to also consider.

    I think if anything the biggest lesson I learnt was, with a first child one can afford to obsess over their sleep more than with a second child who unfortunately has to make do. Luckily for me my first child happens to be a bit of an introvert anyway so she quite enjoys being home a bit more.

    I always worried after reading articles about how good sleep promotes brain development, that my daughters inability to sleep longer during the day would hinder her development, but at her current age her language skills are on the advanced side compared to many other kids her age (I didn’t know this until everyone friends and strangers alike started commenting all the time) so I now know in hindsight I worried for nothing.

    I guess the reason for this mini essay is just to encourage mums out there, you can do your best but don’t worry too much over it! Kids are resilient little things and they will manage :)

  32. Fiona says

    P.S. sorry one last thing – my son appears to be a bit of an odd anomaly. At under 5 months he is easily staying up sometimes over 2 hrs yet he sleeps well during the day most naps. In fact I only just started keeping him up a bit longer than 2 hours because he was screaming at nap times which was really out of character, when I tried keeping him up 10 to 15 mins longer this stopped and he start sleeping well again. Weird or what? Goes against everything the books say.

  33. Angela says


    You’re right, not only can babies learn different sleep habits for day and night, but they can also learn that they can have their sleep prop to go to sleep at night, but not during the night (just reassuring you). Because sleep props do sometimes make it tougher for babies to learn to go to sleep on their own, we tend to hear an unbalanced amount of warnings against them. They can be, but are not necessarily a problem. Isn’t nursing to wind down such an amazing tool, for example? pure magic.

    Why not give him the bottle before the other naps? Could he be waking up hungry? When he wakes after 30 mins do you try to sooth back to sleep? Even if you just rock him an additional 15, it helps get the message across, and he might fall back asleep in the process! This is another kind of sleep training ; )

    Sorry, still not clear on the CIO. was this the sleep training you referred to or are they two separate events? How long was he taking the nice long naps after CIO? Was it a short lived catching up on lost sleep or the norm for him? And does he wake in the night at all?

  34. Angela says

    @Fiona, absolutely! great point. I don’t want to inspire obsessing unnecessarily, but when you’re sleep deprived, frustrated and desperately need that baby to sleep more and longer as soon as possible being vigilant about avoiding overtired is key. If you don’t have a problem, no need to worry 😉

  35. Valerie says

    She’s in bed by 8pm and usually falls asleep easily on her own. Sometimes she’s overtired and cries during putting on jammies and then falls dead asleep when nursing before bed. I try to prevent this, I try to feed her after a bath and lotion as part of our routine then put her to bed drowsy but awake still. No matter how she falls asleep (if on her own or when nursing), she wakes once around 1-2 then again around 5-6am. I put her down again and she wakes for the day around 730. I bring her to bed with me and we nurse/snuggle/sleep for about another hour. We get up and play and I put her down for first nap at about the hour mark. From then on naps are only 30 minutes. She takes three naps. Sometimes I put her in her swing after she wakes from her short morning nap and after about an hour or less, she falls asleep for a few hours. I just wish she’d sleep longer!

  36. CJ says

    What about for toddlers around 20 months doing 1 day nap? At this stage we seem to have 2x 5 hour wake times but i wonder if we stretch it too much at nite? (wakes around 7.30, nap 12.30, wakes 2.30 bath routine started 8pm.

  37. Valerie says

    Ok, so yesterday, we got her to bed for her morning nap about an hour after wake up time. It was slightly past the window and it took her 50 minutes to settle and fall asleep. At the 20 minute mark of “sleep” she woke up. I put her to her swing and about 40 minutes in, she fell asleep again for 1.5 hours. She woke up and played, then was put to bed again within 2 hours. Again, it took her 30 minutes to settle down, but stayed asleep for 1.5 hours. She NEVER does that! We put her to bed early, at signs of tiredness which was 730 after our night routine of bath, lotion, and feeding. She was asleep by 745. Then woke up every 3 hours at night! She hasn’t done that for a while.

    I’m frustrated because I feel like she took a good afternoon nap and we put her to bed earlier than we usually do. I was hoping this would help with her night wakings, but seemed to make them worse! We have tried the early bedtime (630-7pm) but it seemed to make her night wakings worse and her morning wake up time super early. I feel like she goes against the grain with the advice everyone gives me. Frustrated here!

  38. Angela says

    @Valerie, that’s normal night waking for a 5 month old. We could adjust it to a late night feed (10ish) and try to eliminate the 2 am feed, if that would help you get more sleep yourself. It’s a process. As for naps, I really think the environment is part of your solution, since the swing gives you several hours (if i understood you correctly). Have you tried strong white noise, not harsh or high, but overwhelming (like a large fan)?

    Some experts believe motionless sleep is better quality sleep, so it would be ideal to work on getting the longer nap without the swing or turn the swing off once she’s in a deep sleep.Really focus on the overtired – you can nail down perfect timing if you keep a log and that will help. Also, you might benefit from moving the bedtime up a little so that she’s asleep by 7:30 or 8. Let me know how it’s going!

  39. Valerie says

    One more thing, sorry! Despite not sleeping well, we have such a happy girl. Even when she hasn’t slept well! I’m grateful for that! I am not sure if other factors are in play. I work part time (2 per week) night shifts (6pm-6am). My husband does great, and keeps the same routine, but let’s face it, he doesn’t have the goods :) She is right around the age of teething, but other than drooling a lot and bringing everything to her mouth to chew on, she’s not super irritable. Not sure what to think anymore.

  40. Angela says

    @CJ, this schedule sounds fine. Are you having any problems or concerns? The bedtime is a bit late, but if baby is happy and thriving, you’re doing great!

    @Valerie, that “undefined” response was before I saw your second post. Sorry for the confusion. Yesterday was just one day. Sleep deficient is cumulative, so we have to give it several days of avoiding overtired and getting long naps (at least) to judge the effects. We are thinking the same with the early bedtime! Stick to it. It sounds like you started the day with overtired and that adrenaline can carry over into the night. You’re on the right track! Aim for:
    1. 45 m wake time after morning wake up
    2. Continue the nap (as you are) if wake up before 45m
    3. Early bedtime, asleep by 7:30
    Let me know how it’s going ; )

  41. Angela says

    @Valerie, sounds like she is getting overtired sometimes, but her personality and temperament handle it well. However, those overtired hormones could disrupt her night sleep even if they don’t bother her cheery disposition ; ) Is she taking a good amount of milk at those two (normally) night feeds? If so, she probably just waking because her tummy is small and she’s hungry.

  42. Shelley says

    I just wanted to say that this article helped me a lot. My 5.5 month old seems to be following more of a 6 month wake time. For a while I tried the 90 minute thing but I noticed she seemed to be tired at 1 hour 45 minutes and then it jumped to 2 hours 30 minutes shortly after she turned 5 months old. Now, as long as she takes a good nap she can stay awake for 2.5 hours with no over tiredness but if she takes a short nap it seems like she is asleep by 1 45- 2 hours of wake time.

    I had never heard of using the duration of sleep before and that makes perfect sense.

    I had not realized I needed to make the morning nap earlier and ever since I started doing that after reading this article, (about 1 45 or 2 hours of wake time) she has stopped taking her short naps in the morning and gone to a full hour. Hooray! :)

  43. says

    Thank you for responding! Our nights are not going well and I was suspecting that our day time sleep was the problem. I will definitely try to shorten his awake times periods but I have one MAJOR problem. I work outside the home 3 days week and try to drop him off at an in home daycare at 8:45am. If my 7 months old wakes up any time before 7:30am than his first nap SHOULD occur while I am still at home according to your formula of 2 hours awake time before the first nap. This is darn near impossible as I have to be at work at 9am. Should I have him wake up extra early like 5:30am or 6:00am so he naps at 7:30am or 8am at home? This still would get me to work late if he would take an hour nap and that wake up time seems awful early. Or should I try to get him to sleep later so his first nap occurs just after he gets to day care. This also seems challenging as I don’t think he will sleep that late. Just wondering what to do about this predicament! I know my child care provider has a hard time putting him down at specific times, she just watches his sleep cues. I’m sure if I told her he HAS to be put down at a certain time she would but she also has her own little girl to look after. I just don’t know what to do!

  44. Lindsey says

    @ Angela Thank you for writing this. I’d say that overall this formula seems to hold fairly true for my little one who is just 4 months. There are of course annomolies like the day she was up for almost 3 hours thnen napped for over2!
    Our problem, like most is that typically the naps are more like 45 minutes, although we’ve had some success getting 60+ minutes for at least one nap, once a day, most days in recent weeks.

    My concern is she just started daycare this week and I’m so stressed out because some of her npas are now as short as 25 minutes!! I know they are keeping her awake way too long (2-3 hours). I keep asking them to put her down sooner, when I drop her off in the morning I ask them to work to get her down no later than 90 minutes after she woke up, closer to 60 minutes. I tell them she can’t handle being up much more than an hour at a time and they are still keeping her up and insisting she is not tired.

    I’m worried she is going to get so overtired that all teh sleep training we’ve done will be undone. I do understand in a daycare setting they can’t do the full winddown routine I do, but I’m at a loss. I am not ok with her just napping 25 minutes throughout the day!

    Any thoughts?

  45. Angela says

    @Shelley, thanks so much for the feedback. Duration is what I noticed was missing from all the wake time advice out there – thanks for validating that! That was super fast improvement on your baby’s first nap! Just shows how powerful avoiding overtired can be. Love it!

  46. Lori says

    Great article! We are expecting our second son. Our first (27 months) was terribly sensitive to being overtired and still does not like to sleep. I was curious to know about typical wake times in toddlers. He typically sleeps from 8pm to 6:30 or 7am and naps from 1pm to 3 or 3:30. I’ve tried moving his nap up, but it just gets pushed back most days because it takes him FOREVER to eat lunch. I think he needs an earlier nap. He’s usually wired at bedtime, even with the shorte wake time before bed. Any thoughts/suggestions.

  47. Angela says

    @Kristin, sounds like your childcare mom should put him down as soon as you drop him off. If he sleeps at least until 7 and she has him down by 9ish, this should be fine. If he wakes much before 7, especially after a bad night, I’d seriously try to work something out with your childcare to drop him off early and put him down within the 2 hour (or less if needed) wake time window. This should be a temporary accommodation on her part, but at least until you get on top of the overtired, thus making his nights better and naps longer, and then first AM wake time becomes slightly less critical (also as he gets older). make sense?

  48. Angela says

    @Lindsey, you’re completely justified in not being ok with this care. Would they let her go hungry for 3 hours? No, but sleep is brain food and it’s essential to both yours and her wellbeing that the healthy sleep habits you have worked to achieve are supported. Gently explain the importance of getting her to sleep on time and do everything you can to replicate the home sleep environment. The 45m naps were likely okay, but your instinct is screaming to you about those 25m naps and long wake times – listen and insist that your baby get what she needs ; )

  49. Angela says

    @Lori, thanks for the positive feedback ; ) is your son sleeping well during the night? An earlier nap might be better if he seems tired before and a slightly earlier bedtime might be better, but if it’s not broken . . .

  50. says

    Great conversation, everyone! Had to laugh about “being chased by a lion” bit. :) I wanted to address a few questions that have come up.

    @Kendra At 15 1/2 months, we shoot for no more than 5 hours of awake time before and after the nap. It may also impact his nap length to let him sleep longer than 12 hours at night, so I would try to limit night sleep to 12 hours. Keep in mind that the total amount of sleep in 24 hours stays relatively constant and the average amount of sleep at this age is 12-13 hours (10-12 at night and 2-3 hours during the day). However, during the first part of the one-nap transition, the one nap is sometimes only an hour. It takes 2-4 weeks to fully transition to one nap, usually. A typical schedule is something like 6-11-6 or 7-12-7 for a 12-hour sleeper.

    @CJ Same for you and your schedule looks perfect! :)

    @Valerie I concur that, at this age, sleep is still organizing and her central nervous system is maturing. I know the inconsistency can drive us nuts, but with time and patience, you will find the “right” amount of awake time and routine/schedule. Some families do find that early bedtimes lead to more night-waking. Some babies do best on a clock bedtime and others by awake time. One thing is definite is that it does take several days to a week to “set” an internal clock and there are some bumps along the way as you do. So, making a change for one day typically does not give you a true picture. Add to that and some babies are naturally inconsistent. For us Type A people, that can drive us insane! Just remember that she is not a robot and although we can try formulas or what-not, all babies are truly unique. As she gets older, it will get easier and easier. Hang in there!!

    @Lori At 27 months old (after 2 years old, actually), we sometimes begin to see 5-6 hours awake periods both before and after the nap. Your schedule looks like a very common 2 year old schedule, so unless you have specific concerns, I wouldn’t change a thing! :)

    @Kristin I will add a caveat that we try not to have the first nap before 8 a.m. after 4-5 months old. The reason is because we don’t want the first nap to be a continuation of night sleep. So, my advice would be to shoot for a later wake-up time and then a nap upon arrival from daycare, same as Angela stated, but with an additional reason. :) Of course, as you point out, we can’t always get a later wake-up time while keeping an early bedtime, depending on the baby. All in all, all we can do is our best with the situation. Many babies go to daycare centers or in-home daycare and we just all do the best we can. He will likely have good days and bad, but early bedtimes do wonders. Hang in there!!

    @Lindsey I know starting daycare can be so stressful. Although her naps are short right now, hopefully she begins to adjust. I do find the first 2-4 weeks to be the hardest (pretty much at any age) when they first start daycare. Hang in there and keep the lines of communication with them open!