One of the biggest pieces of teaching a child how to sleep independently is making sure they are not overtired. If your child’s awake time windows are too long, their cortisol levels will rise and they will become overtired.
It’s difficult to help a child learn how self-soothe when those cortisol levels are too high. Sometimes, it even makes achieving good sleep impossible. In those cases, we have to backtrack and really shorten those awake time windows before implementing appropriate sleep schedules and sleep training methods.
If your child is having difficulties with sleep, check to make sure you aren’t keeping them awake too long between sleep periods. Below is a rough outline and breakdown of what those awake time windows should be like based on age. These times will vary from child to child so use their behavior and how well they sleep as guides for their personal awake time windows.
0-2 months– 30-60 minutes. Some babies can only tolerate 30 minutes of awake time and others can handle up to 60 minutes. Experiment with different awake time windows to see how well they sleep and you will find their “sweet spot.”
3-4 months– 45-90 minutes. Again, experiment with those thresholds and get your child down right when they start showing any sleep signs.
4-7 months– 60-120 minutes. At 4 months you want to start focusing less on sleepy cues and more on scheduling sleep by the clock. So if your child can only tolerate 60 minutes of awake time but is sleeping well at night, taking good naps and doesn’t have any other sleep issues, 60 minutes of awake time is fine. However, if they are struggling with sleep, it’s time to start slowly pushing those awake time windows forward.
8-15 months– 2.5-4 hours. This again will vary based on how well rested your child is and whether or not they struggle with sleep issues.
15 months (or until they drop to 1 nap)-until they stop napping- about 6 hours max, that window will shorten later in the day after their nap too. So for example, if your child wakes at 6, they should nap around 12 when on the younger end of this age spectrum and move closer to 1 pm by 2 years. If they nap for 2 hours, they should be in bed within 4/4.5 hours from the end of their nap.