Overtiredness is a major cause of many sleep disturbances that include resisting naps, short naps, no naps, resisting bedtime, bedtime breakdowns, frequent night wakings and the dreaded early morning wake-up occuring before 6 in the morning!
All of these disturbances can cause caregivers to want to pull out their hair! Whether some or all of these problems occur frequently or just sometimes they are all equally frustrating. Not to mention, all of the above sleep disturbances are also very hard on our little ones who desperately need their sleep!!
One thing that is almost always true is the statement "sleep begets sleep." This means that the restorative sleep you get leads to more restorative sleep. Good days help lead to good nights and good nights help to establish good days! The same goes for bad sleep.... bad sleep during the day often leads to bad night sleep and vice versa. Again...very frustrating for caregivers and very hard on our children!
When developing a detailed plan for a family or just giving suggestions to help with sleep the one thing I always look at are daily wake times. These are the times that your little one is awake in between each sleep period. For example, if your baby wakes from a nap at 12:30 and then is sleeping for their next nap at 2:00 then that wake time would be 1.5 hours for that period. Of course not all wake times will be exactly the same each day but usually the body thrives off of consistent wake times that are appropriate for your child's age.
These wake time windows were developed based on research by sleep pioneers that found certain intervals of awake periods during the day that worked most efficiently with a child's biological rhythms. They allow our little ones to be sleeping at optimal times during the day when their body is most at rest and sleep hormones are on the higher end. As a sleep consultant I like to look at these wake times because it gives a guide for parents to ensure that their little one's are not becoming overtired leading to the sleep disturbances I outlined above.
So what are the wake times that I use....let me share!!
0-1 Month - 40-45 Minutes Max
1-2 Months - 45-60 Minutes Max
2-3 Months - 60 - 90 Minutes Max
3-4 Months - 80 Minutes - 1.75 Hours Max
5 Months - 2.5 Hours Max
6-7 Months - 2.75 Hours Max on 3 naps 3.5 on 2 naps
8-9 Months - 3.5 Hours Max
10-15 Months - 3.5 - 4 Hours Max
Once on 1 nap - 5.5-6 Hours Max
As you can see these suggestions include the MAX amount of time your child should be awake for. It is really important to follow your little one's cues to establish what their sleep time is within this range. These times also mean the times they are sleeping and not getting ready for sleep time so always begin your sleep routines early enough to work with the times above.
Yes, every baby is different but us as humans are very similar in terms of how our bodies work. This is why for the most part we all sleep similar night hours, wake up at similar morning wake-times, and why our children generally nap at times similar to each other. There are other factors that can contribute to our biological rhythms but we all change and develop together at a similar pace and establish a 24 hour body clock that is universal.
Now you may be wondering how to apply these MAX wake times to your child. What I always suggest is to fill out a daily sleep/feed log for 1 to 2 weeks! This log will help you see patterns by watching what times they wake up, how long they generally sleep for at different times of the day, when they show tired signs (this means they should be sleeping already!!), and what time they go to bed. All of the above will help to show you what their approximate wake windows are!
Here is an example:
In this chart you can see their daily schedule (6 months old). Here are some things I will point outt:
** When including the sleepy signals, this is telling you when their body should already be sleeping!! So for nap # 1 (which was a short nap by the way) you can see that they were most likely ready for sleep at 8:30 versus the 9:00 they finally were sleeping. At 9 they may have crashed but it led to a short nap because the infants body was most likely overtired.
** Feedings occur right at wake-up time versus before going to bed. This helps to eliminate a milk to sleep association which can also lead to many sleep disturbances. You may remember E.A.S.Y routine!!
** Nap #2 occured much closer to the time sleepy signals were noticed and this led to a much better nap. Again, those sleepy signals show us that they were most likely ready for sleep just a few minutes earlier.
** Nap # 3 again occured right when sleep signs were noticed and led to a great 'cat nap' that we are looking for at the end of the day.
**At 7:00 p.m. there were strong sleep signals such as crabby and crying! This can mean that they are nearing the end of their sleep windown and it can be very difficult for them to have a restful sleep if they go to bed much after this. So we would want this little one going down before 7 to allow for him to be asleep by this time! At 6 months that max awake time is around 2.5 hours and so this would indicate to us that after waking from his nap at 4:30 he needed to be sleeping by 7.
***Please note this is a sample chart and not from a real situation but charts are very similar to this!
When keeping track using a log you will after about a week see a pattern of times they generally are awake for before becoming over tired. This is a great tool for improving sleep!
If you are looking for a more direct approach that can be applied to your families unique situation please contact me at any time and I would love to put together a plan to get you on the road to better sleep!!
Healthy Sleep Equals Happy Families