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The Truth about Wake Windows

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

**Before you jump into reading this article, the statements made in this article are for those children whose daytime sleep has organized, typically around 4+months old. Look out for another blog coming on sleep before 16 months**

I've been thinking about writing this blog post for a while, because it's something that definitely hit close to home for me. When my twins were born, I had a chart, this chart told me the exact windows of time they should be awake... with only a 15 minute buffer. I followed these wake windows like my life depended on it... and our naps were, well, challenging. It wasn't until I worked with a sleep consultant myself and did my own training that I understood that using wake windows were actually not setting me up for success.

The thing we have to remember about our children is that they are not robots, they are human beings, and yes, human beings thrive on schedule but they also thrive on biological rhythms. My best way to explain an ideal schedule for a child (or person in general) is to talk about you- the adult. Most of us have a time of day we typically go to sleep, and we also have a time of day we typically wake up. We have developed this rhythm in our bodies by aligning with our hormones and setting our sleep waves through repetition- and we can even change these waves, but it takes some time, like when we change time zones and have jet lag.

This is the same for our children.

We want to catch their sleep waves, and just like adults, these waves typically happen at certain times of day, not after a certain amount of time awake. Just think, if you started taking a nap everyday at 1pm, after a few days, you would start getting tired around 1pm each day... this is the same for your child.

For very young children, still taking multiple naps, there is a companion in scheduling, and those are sleepy cues. Our job as caregivers is to get to know our child's sleepy cues, and paired with the time on the clock, base our child's nap schedule off of that.

One trouble we see with wake windows is that if you push your child's time awake past their biological sleep wave then we start seeing a child who is overtired, taking short naps, and is not getting the rest they need. Remember, keeping your five month old up for 2.5 hours between every sleep will not guarantee you a long nap... I personally have a 17 month old who takes his first nap less than two hours after he wakes most days and takes his second nap at the SAME TIME as his 3 year old twin brothers- bliss!

I wish I could just throw out the exact schedule your child should aim for, but again, children are not robots, so we really need to work with your unique circumstances to figure out exactly what will work best for you and your family.

If wake windows just aren't cutting it for you, like they didn't for me, feel free to reach out and we can talk schedule!



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