Awake Times & Sleep Windows
In order for an infant, toddler, or child to have healthy sleep habits, parents must take charge over their child’s awake and sleep routines. Most children will nap until at least 4 years old, with some children continuing to take naps at 5 years old. This makes it extremely important for parents to be aware of appropriate awake times between sleep periods. The reason it matters so much when a child sleeps is because of their natural circadian rhythm, which is the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Consistency will be key in making sure that your child is sleeping and waking at appropriate times throughout the day, and not waking for long periods in the middle of the night.
No two babies are the same, so some will be able to stay up longer than others between naps. Parents run into trouble if they’ve missed their child’s sleep window (the optimal time to put baby down for a nap or bedtime sleep), because now baby will be overtired and have trouble falling asleep. And since sleep begets sleep, for most babies, if they fall asleep outside of their sleep window, they will then wake up early or more often in the middle of the night.
Below is a chart from Elizabeth Pantley’s website to help guide you from the newborn stage through kindergarten. The sample awake times are average ranges, so make sure to check sleepy cues as the sleep window approaches. Sleepy cues include yawing, fussing, fidgeting, opening eyes wide, making sounds like a creaking door, squeak
Newborn – Kindergarten Sleep Chart
*These are averages that do not necessarily represent unbroken stretches of sleep, since a brief awakening between sleep cycles is normal.
**The hours shown don’t always add up because, when children take longer naps, they may sleep less at night and vice versa.
*** Newborn babies sleep 16-18 hours per day, distributed evenly over 6 to 7 sleep periods.