A wakeful what?
In a nutshell, a wakeful window is the average amount of time your little one can stay awake in any one stretch. Knowing your child's optimum sleep window can make a huge difference to how easily they settle to sleep and how long they stay asleep- think of it as your bedtime window of opportunity, paving the way for a much smoother bedtime or nap time routine!
The golden time
Depending on your child's age, there will be an average amount of time she can keep her eyes open. This may be 1.5-2 hours for a 6 month old, or it may be 3-4 hours for a slightly older child. Either way, as parents we need to be able to identify when the golden time is to put baby down for a sleep. Too soon, and she may protest because she's still got another 30 minutes of "awake" time, too late and she'll grizzle because she's overtired and her brain will be pumping cortisol into her system (cortisol is known as the "wakeful" hormone so I don't need to tell you what that will be doing!)
Why is cortisol important?
Bright lights, noise, device screens (iPads and iPhones), tv, noise, and lots of stimulation. All of these stimulate the brain, telling it to wake up and allowing the release of cortisol, which acts in a similar way to adrenaline. If you've ever seen an over-tired child, you'll know that they're not going to be nodding off in a corner, in fact they're more likely to be hurtling around like the Duracell bunny! This is why your child may seem wide awake or "wired" when they're actually over-tired.
Welcome to Well-Rested Island
Many little ones are actually experts at hiding their sleepy clues, so it's important to know an approximate time that you can expect them to be tired, so you can be paying closer attention to them and stand the best chance of spotting the optimum sleep window. Unfortunately, sometimes they'll still show no signs so you'll need to go with timing and try to find the best time yourself. When you find a sleep window, it's like a surfer catching a wave. Get it right, and it's a smooth ride straight to the blissful shores of Well-Rested Island. Get it wrong and it might be a little bit bumpy, but don't worry, the tide will take you in! Did I take that analogy too far? Oh well, hopefully you're still following me!
How do I spot my little one's wakeful window?
As we mentioned, sometimes you will have to rely on your best guess, but there are a few simple steps that can ensure you are best-placed to get it right.
Find out the average sleep requirements for your child's age group (including night time and naps).
Find out the average wakeful window for your child's age.
Review your child's sleep schedule to determine if he is staying awake for too long and establish if he is getting enough sleep.
In reviewing their sleep schedule, you might identify a knock-on effect to the rest of their schedule. For example, if your little one's golden sleep time is 7PM and that's normally when they're just going in to the bath, you might have to start dinner earlier to give you enough time to allow for their bedtime routine.
When you've spotted the sleepy cues and it's in your golden time, take little one up and follow through your usual nap-time/bedtime routine.
If you're able to establish a sleep schedule around your little one's wakeful windows, you'll be amazed at your child's ability to settle and sleep better! I'd love to hear how you get on so do get in touch and let me know how you're doing!
For further guidance, do not hesitate to contact me, The Sleep Nanny® or have a FREE 15 minute chat: request a call back here.