Sunday, October 1, 2017

Schedules, Naps and Awake Windows ...

Everything you wanted to know about your baby and/or your toddler's day!

When thinking of our babies sleeping, their nighttime sleep is usually where most parents emphasize. Research does tell us that difficulties with night sleep has the largest negative impact on your family. Day sleep however, is also important, as sleep begets sleep! But there is a lot to know. I hope the information below is helpful so you can make the most out of their day and of course their daytime sleep.

Nap Averages

Some babies sleep more and some less but they are pretty consistent based on their age and how much they will sleep during the day. You can use this information to plan your day and also know if their day sleep is on track.

Newborn to 5 Months

Don’t worry about having a rigid schedule at this stage. Some newborns need a lot of sleep, others are not so good at napping yet. What is most important at this age is to put them down for a nap frequently during the day (every 60-120 mins, see below for more precise numbers). It’s common for them to have 4 to 5 naps throughout the day and the length of the nap will vary greatly for newborns.

6 to 8 Months

At this age, your baby will benefit from at least 3+ hours of total nap time, spread throughout the day. Try a morning, afternoon, and late afternoon catnap. If they nap well, they might only take 2 longer naps as they approach 8-9 months.

9 to 12 Months

From 9 to 12 months, you can expect your baby to sleep about 3 hours during the day, spread across 2 naps as she will likely drop the late afternoon catnap. You might also see the morning nap shorten and the afternoon nap lengthen. Start the afternoon nap about three hours after the morning nap.

13 to 18 Months

At this age, expect to see your child sleep about 2 1/2 hours of total nap time, spread across 2 naps. Do not let them get rid of their morning nap too soon. Most children don't drop to one nap until around 15-18 months. If you find your child is refusing the afternoon nap, it is likely that they slept too long in the morning. It is okay to wake them up from the morning nap after 1 to 1 1/2 hours if it helps them be tired enough to take that afternoon nap.

When they do switch to the 1 nap, the nap should start between 12-1PM depending on their age and when they wake in the morning.

MSD Sleep Tip:  click on this link to view our blog - "Is my toddler ready to drop to one nap?"

18 to 24+ Months

After 18 months, your child will likely be ready for one afternoon nap lasting about 2-2 1/2 hours and ideally nap time should start about 1pm or just after lunch time.

2+ years and beyond

At this age, expect your toddler's day sleep to start to decrease to 1 1/2 to 2 hours total. They are getting ready to make a steady shift towards ending naps altogether, which is common around 3 and 4 year old.

Nevertheless, you always want to make nap time or at the very least 'quiet time' an option for them. See more on quiet time below.

“Windows” of Wakefulness

These “windows” are basically periods in which you can expect your child to be awake between his or her naps. Start your timer from when they wake up from one sleep period to when they fall asleep for another sleep period eg: nap or bedtime. 

I find that awake windows or sleep windows are like magic, as when you get them right your child can fall asleep much easier as they are not 'undertired' nor 'overtired' - both of which can affect nap time.

0-3-months: 1-2 hour window of wakefulness
4-6-months: 2-2.5 hours
6-9-months: 2-3 hours
9-12-months: 2.5-4 hours
12-18-months: 3-4.5 hours
18-24-months: 5-6 hours
2-year-old: 5-6.5 hours
3-year-old: 6-7 hours
4-5-year-old: 7-8 hours, if still napping

Keep in mind that these hours refer to children who are sleeping throughout the night.

MSD Sleep Tip: download a chart of the awake windows for your reference guide. download awake windows chart

Less is not Always More

For a baby over 6 months, don’t be fooled by short naps or a ‘disaster nap’ which is typically defined as any nap that is shorter than 45 minutes. It’s more than likely that your baby may wake up cranky or drowsy from this type of nap. These shorter naps are usually caused by too short / too long of a sleep window, lack of independent sleeping skills or perhaps as a response to a developmental milestone that is happening.  

If that is the case try your best to get them back to sleep after a disaster nap, with either soothing them back to sleep or leaving them to see if they can resettle on their own.  If the short naps continue it is time to look at all the variables.


Consistency is your best friend. We parents can sometimes forget the factors that set naps and night sleep apart: noise level, too much daylight, etc.  Don't forget that naps are the hardest time to put yourself to sleep. 

If your child is a champ at hiding their sleep cues, try taking them to a dark room near when you think it's nap time, sometimes that will bring out the tired signs you were looking for to know when is the best time to put them down for sleep. You want to stay consistent in order to make their nap time the most effective.

I wish you and your family sweet dreams and sweeter mornings!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Photo credit: Classic Kids Photography


  1. I enjoyed reading this article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from beddingstock

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