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Wake Windows, Nap Transitions and Scheduling

1.       Wake windows and wake times


As promised, this isn’t your usual wake window chart and there is some nifty background reading here to make you a scheduling expert BUT if wake windows is all that that you are looking for then message me here or DM me on Whatsapp or Instagram. However, If you are the curious or geeky kind and like to learn whether there are studies behind anything you are asked to follow, then I answer the following questions succinctly regarding wake windows without overwhelming you with information:


a.       What are they and is there any scientific basis behind them?


Photos speak a thousand words so here is one to best explain wake windows.  For my example, I have taken a 4-month’s old first wake window to illustrate what I mean:

b.      From 101, lets move on to science/research behind wake windows.  Is there any?


Most websites online will cite the average sleep durations from American Academy of Pediatricians as instrumental in determining sleep requirements for babies and children and by extension, wake windows by age.  See below for the latest (2016) consensus[1]:


There have been studies for children in Singapore (for instance)[2] which have found that infants and children of all ages in Singapore are getting less sleep than the recommended hours mentioned above:


Sleep deprivation has been associated with hyperactivity, inattention, and poorer school readiness and even ADHD-like symptoms.  This isn’t just research or scare-mongering but something you can notice empirically for your own child if you remain aware of it.  Notice how difficult it is for your child to manage their emotions on a morning without proper night sleep- meltdown city! Can following wake windows carefully help prevent your child to be a statistic on the wrong side?  What is the relation between them and sleep totals mentioned above?

Not a direct link unfortunately when you dive into it as the above totals are ranges and a difference of two hours in total sleep needs can change wake windows (as commonly cited in websites) drastically.   Another common basis for wake windows is sleep drive. Simply stated, sleep drive is one of the main factors that determines when someone falls asleep. Sleep drive increases very quickly in early childhood.  It is very difficult to keep up with without some outside help (especially if your child doesn’t reliably show tired signs) and so wake windows offer a perfect “recipe” to some for ensuring parents know when sleep drive is increasing leading to nap transitions, shorter naps and other issues associated with changing sleep needs. 

c.       So should we even bother about wake windows?


Yes! Even though current scientific evidence and research on this topic is slim there is merit in the general principles, typical nap transition signs and time ranges I outline in my Wake Window chart (which you can request as a FREE resource).  However, there is no need to get obsessed with them.  They are an aid not a bible to help you decipher the child sleep puzzle. I say this despite some Facebook sleep groups continuing to swear by them to the detriment of parents’ mental health which I never endorse!  


d.      How do I use wake windows and how do I know they are working?


Ok so you have a handy dandy wake window chart and you understand the number of naps and nap transitions theoretically.  How do you apply this practically to improve your child’s naps and bedtime sleep? Here are some useful and practical principles to use along with the Wake Window chart:

i.            Log their sleep (and ideally feeds) using a phone app like BabyConnect, Huckleberry, Glow Baby etc. till they drop down to 1 nap – yes it seems tedious and time-consuming but, in my view and experience, it is the single most useful thing you can do to understand the patterns of your child’s sleep, know what works and what needs to be tweaked.  Remember that wake window charts are just a guide and the only way to personalize them to suit your individual baby with their own individual sleep needs is to log their sleep (tip: share the load with other care-givers by giving them access to log sleep through the app);


ii.            You will know that your wake windows are working if your child is sleeping within 10-12 minutes (approx.) of put down (if independent sleeper) or rocking etc (if being assisted to sleep): if it is taking more than 20 minutes then something is off, try a different time (based on other signs as also set out in the Wake Windows handout) consistently for the next 3 days.  Usually I recommend wake window tweaking shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes up or down at one time; and


iii.            Be aware of typical number of naps and approaching nap transitions: As a general principle, once wake windows elongate sufficiently, something’s (to be precise, a nap) gotta give.  Typical timings and basic approaches to nap transitions are set out in the table in the Appendix but nap transitions aren’t smooth.  They are as bumpy as a ride on an old rented car.  But don’t give into dropping naps early either as that leads to more issues.  When deciding if your child is ready to drop a nap, check the following are ALL true:

a.       Refuses that nap consistently for 3-5 days;

b.       Is happy and regulated despite increased wake time and dropped nap (personality of the child plays a huge part here so that for the parent to judge and understand changes); AND

c.       Does not fall asleep in a moving vehicle if taken on one around the same time as usual nap time for that nap they are resisting


A nifty little chart from Prof Emily Oster which is for the data-minded among you to visualize typical nap data for children up-to 10 years old:


[1] Full citation for study: Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., Malow, B. A., Maski, K., Nichols, C., Quan, S. F., Rosen, C. L., Troester, M. M., & Wise, M. S. (2016). Consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children: Methodology and discussion. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(11), 1549–1561.

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