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Wake Times… and Why You Shouldn’t Use Them



That’s right, I said it…don’t use wake times or wake windows beyond 5 months old!



This was the most mind blowing and challenging part of my certification program. I used them for my kids, but looking back, it probably didn’t work as well as I tried to convince myself they did.


Neither of my girls were consistent nappers until they dropped to one nap, maybe because I followed wake times? Plus, the wake time calculator that was always running in my head drove me crazy. I was constantly bound to their random wake time schedule, which didn’t allow our family much flexibility for about 15 months.


What are Wake Windows vs. Biological (Bio) Times


A "wake window" or "wake time" is the amount of time that a child is awake from the end of one nap to the beginning of another. The idea of wake times has no basis in scientific research but instead uses the idea of sleep pressure in order to guide your child's appropriate nap schedule. For example, your 8 month old woke up at 6:30 a.m. and has been awake for 3 hours, which means it is time to take a nap. Regardless of their nap length, you will time the next nap to be 3 hours from the end of the first.


Can you see how this can be mind numbing and confusing? Constantly counting hours to put your child down for sleep based on arbitrary numbers that the Internet doesn't have scientific research behind? No thanks.


Biological sleep times are using both sleep pressure (amount of time awake) and the natural surge of sleepy hormones to offer nap on a set schedule. Science tells us, through many peer-reviewed journal articles, that our circadian rhythms surge sleepy hormones (melatonin and adenosine) around 8:30-9:00 a.m., 12:00-1:00 p.m., and 3:30-4:00 p.m. The last surge in children up to the age of 7 happens between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.


We don't need to be stringent and can still follow our baby's cues, but offering naps that fall in line with those times would be using all of the sleep mechanisms and biological support our body has to offer, instead of just relying on sleep pressure.


But the "wake window" is so short!


Correct, your window is shorter in the morning and much longer as the day goes on. But if you're using wake windows and struggling with short naps, then the wake windows aren't working. This is likely because the body is not sleeping at a time when it is optimal for sleep, which prevents the baby from getting into deep, NREM sleep. Alternatively, your baby could be going to sleep too late for Nap 1, resulting in an overtired baby who has an excess of cortisol and adrenaline. This also prevents baby from achieving a long, consolidated nap.


How do I implement bio times?


Use the sleep schedules according to age below as your guide for implementing bio times. Please keep in mind, you can be flexible by +/- 30 minutes of all times.


4-5 Months

Wake up: 6:30 a.m.

Nap 1: 8:30 a.m.

Nap 2: 12:00 p.m.

Nap 3: 3:30 p.m.

Bedtime: 6:30 p.m.


6-8 Months

Wake up: 6:30 a.m.

Nap 1: 9:00 a.m.

Nap 2: 12:30 p.m.

Nap 3: 4:00 p.m.

Bedtime: 7:00 p.m.


9-14 Months

Wake up: 6:30 a.m.

Nap 1: 9:00 a.m.

Nap 2: 1:00 p.m.

Bedtime: 6:30 p.m.


15+ Months

Wake up: 6:30 a.m.

Nap 1: 12:30 p.m.

Bedtime: 6:30 p.m.


Takeaways


Do you use wake windows and it works for your family? That’s amazing! Sometimes, children can be super flexible and wake times work well for them.


However, are you struggling to time your entire day around unpredictable naps? Slave to the wake time calculator? Can’t sign up for anything ahead of time because you’re not sure what time you’ll need to put the baby down for a nap? The baby doesn’t really seem to nap consistently, anyway? You might want to try using a consistent daytime schedule. Check out my post on age-appropriate schedules to help with this!


If your baby is younger than 4 months old, it is still appropriate to use an awake time between 30-120 minutes, depending on their age. They still haven’t sorted our their circadian rhythms, and this will keep them from getting overtired. For babies over 4 months, it’s important to keep in mind that the schedule can be flexible, especially as they are learning to sort out their naps. Give or take 30 minutes on the ends of each scheduled sleep period and make bedtime a moving target depending on the quality of sleep for the day.


If you need any extra help or want to talk about how absolutely insane, but really effective, the idea of “no wake times” is, please book a call with me below!





Rest Well,

Sarah





Wake Times
Wake Times
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