How Long Should Babies Stay Awake?

A complete revelation to me as part of my own motherhood journey, awake times was something that I knew absolutely nothing about but very quickly learned in regards to powerful knowledge to positively affect my child’s sleep. It also helped me to understand when the balance was out and I was faced with an overtired child!

Our babies and toddlers have a very sensitive circadian rhythm and they only have the capacity to be able to tolerate and cope with a certain amount of time awake based on their age before they quickly progress into becoming overtired.

In most cases, the majority of families that I work with are dealing with overtired children. Their child has reached a point where they are too tired to sleep (seems counterintuitive, right??). So what are some signs that are indications that your child may be overtired?

Signs of overtiredness:

  • Frequent 2 hourly wakes during the night
  • Resisting settling to sleep
  • Very difficult to settle 
  • Lots of crying (like extreme crying!)
  • Early morning wakes
  • Short naps –ranging anywhere from 20-45mins
  • Waking before midnight
  • Inability to link their sleep cycles
  • Excessive rubbing of their face and eyes
  • They may be increasingly clingy and don’t want to be put down
  • They get their second wind and seem almost hyper!

Once our children get to the point of reaching overtiredness, the stress hormone cortisol rises in their body which suppresses the sleepy hormone melatonin. It is the equivalent of your child having caffeine. In turn, it results in our little ones being unable to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Conversely, while as a parent we want to avoid our children becoming overtired, equally if our children are put down to bed too early and they are under tired, you may also face a number of challenges impacting your child’s sleep.

Signs of under tiredness:

  • Resistance when settling to sleep
  • Early morning wakes
  • Waking during the night and staying awake for long periods of time
  • Short naps
  • Crying
  • Frequent night wakes

So how do you prevent your child from becoming overtired or under tired? By knowing their age-appropriate awake windows! To make things easy for you, we have created an awake time chart based on your baby’s age to help guide you when to put them down for sleep. You can download the chart HERE.

Where there are guidelines such as 2.5-3.5 hours/4.5 hours, it means that between 2.5-3.5 hours will be the awake window for the 1st nap, and the 4.5 hours guideline is for the second nap. This schedule is based off the lunchtime nap being the biggest nap of the day and working your baby’s schedule around this. 

Click here to access our handy Awake Times Chart as a PDF Download 

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