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Do I Follow their Wake Window, or Keep Bedtime Consistent?!

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

This question comes up a lot with the parents I speak with, and during my Wondering Wednesday's (that's my free Q&A on my Instagram Stories every Wednesday @countingsheepwithjane)!

How in the world do you have a consistent bedtime, AND use wake windows?! I understand why this is such a confusing topic. You are getting mixed messages constantly from sleep coaches (I’m sure I am guilty of causing confusion myself!). You are told:

🐑 "Always follow wake windows!"

🐑 "Be consistent with bedtime!"

Wait… how can you do both!? I will tell you!

But first, we need to discuss the importance of a consistent bedtime routine! Without a solid bedtime routine, this advice may not be successful! I recommend a 30-minute bedtime (shorter if they are under 4 months of age), that is simple and easily replicated. By that, I mean that you want anyone to be able to do your bedtime routine, anywhere. To learn how to create the “perfect bedtime routine,” give this blog a read!

Why is a solid and consistent bedtime (and naptime!) routine important? Because these repetitive actions will signal their mind, and body, that sleep is coming! As a result, melatonin production will start. That’s the magic hormone that helps our body fall asleep and stay asleep! If you have an established bedtime routine AND a consistent bed TIME, they will be ready for sleep at the same time each night!

Many parents mistakenly adjust bedtime based on the last wake window, but we don’t want to do that! With that being said, it’s a good idea to put them down early if they hit the end of the wake window, because we want to prevent overtiredness. But a shorter wake window does not mean we need to push bedtime later. Again, our end goal is to be consistent with bedtime, so their body knows when they should be sleeping!

Here is an example!

You have 6 month old baby.

The wake window is 2.5 hours, goal schedule is 7:30am-7:30pm

7:30am- Wake

10:00-11:30- Nap 1

2:00-3:00- Nap 2

5:30-5:45- Nap 3

7:30pm -Bedtime

This is a good example because 6 months is a tough age to schedule! They aren’t quite able to stay awake long enough to drop to 2 naps, but 3 naps are hard to fit into the day! You’ll notice that the last nap of the day is very short, and so is the last wake window!

Let me give you a couple definitions:

🐑 Catnap- A nap that is one sleep cycle (30-45 minutes). It is short, but still restorative since it allows for a full sleep cycle. This length of naps tends to allow for a full wake window afterwards.

🐑 Bridge Nap- a nap that just 15 minutes or less in duration. It allows them to get a bit of rest in so that they can lengthen their wake window, (in this scenario) to make bedtime. Since it is not a full sleep cycle, they should still be ready for sleep when bedtime rolls around! A good bedtime routine will also ensure that they are prepared for sleep.

*Note- a bridge nap can also be used in other scenarios, like in the morning. Another blog to follow on this!*

In the above example, the 3rd nap is only a 15-minute bridge nap, allowing us to extend wake time and make it to the 7:30pm bedtime, without pushing baby to becoming overtired (YAY!). Despite the fact that the last window is only 1hr 45min, I would not be concerned with a 7:30 bedtime. Provided you are consistent with when bedtime is and your bedtime routine, their body will still be ready for bed at the same time as normal! If you had pushed them the full 2.5hr wake window and made bedtime 8:15pm, they would have been ready at 7:30 and they would now be overtired. As a result, they would be difficult to get down for sleep and would likely wake more frequently throughout the night.

I hope that this has helped clear up the confusion around timing your baby’s bedtime! You can stop stressing about pushing your baby to a later bedtime, because you don’t want the wake window to be short. Let it be short! Your focus should be on a consistent bedtime routine and bed time!

Imma go take a catnap now! Happy Sunday everyone! Feel free to share this blog, and subscribe on my homepage to never miss a new blog!

-Jane Anderson

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