Baby and Toddler Sleep: Wake Time By Age

wake time


Your Baby Sleep Consultant expert.

As your little one grows and develops, it can be tough keeping up with their sleep schedules and wake time. Figuring out how long your child can stay awake before needing to sleep is just another one of those tricky additions for parents to wrap their head around. Getting the timing of your child’s sleep right can be the difference between having your little one drift off quickly, or struggle for another hour of battling sleep.

As I have covered before, sleep is a critical part of any child’s development process, and making sure they develop healthy sleeping and napping patterns is needed to help them grow and develop. Not to mention that Mama needs a break in the day too! Teaching your little one to sleep well is needed for the whole family.

However, before we get into figuring out wake times, understanding some key aspects of your little one’s sleep is important.

Why are naps needed?

Incorporating solid and consistent nap times are important for your child’s sleep schedule. It is a common myth that skipping naps will help a child sleep better during the night. In fact, the opposite is true.  Skipping naps, or having poor quality naps, result in a child that’s:

  • Over-tired;
  • Cranky;
  • And most importantly, prone to night waking.

So, why does this happen? The science behind it is that when your child naps, their brain processes all of the physical and mental inputs they received while they were awake. Tissue regeneration and growth happens while we sleep, so ensuring your child is receiving the approximate amount of naps for their age aids in their development and well-being.

What is a homeostatic sleep drive?

In short, a homeostatic sleep drive is how long the body can stay up before it begins feeling sleepy.

The long answer is this: as your child goes through the day, learning about and figuring out the fascinating world around them, the feeling of needing to sleep builds up. As the need to sleep builds, they naturally get more tired, which is why they require naps during the day. For babies, this is common during the first three to four months, but after that, as your child’s sleep matures, other factors such as the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle come into play.

If you want to do some more reading on the homeostatic sleep drive, here’s a great rundown from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

What’s a sleep-wake cycle?

A sleep-wake cycle, scientifically known as a circadian rhythm, is what controls the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and cortisol (the awake hormone) over the course of 24 hours. This influences the timing of when your little one is biologically ready to sleep, and it’s regulated by the brain based on the amount of light the brain receives. Daylight signals to the brain to keep releasing cortisol, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. During certain points of the day, other circadian rhythms prepare the body to sleep by lowering core body temperature and most importantly, releasing melatonin.

As evening approaches and daylight diminishes, the brain picks up on the lack of light and begins releasing melatonin instead. This allows your little one to feel their sleep drive fully, and it’s why bedtime is generally the easiest sleep period to get a child to fall asleep.

If you’re interested in reading more about the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms, the National Institutes of Health have written an in-depth guide to understanding sleep.

Why are wake times important?

If your little one is being kept up too late, or frequently missing nap periods, they’re prone to becoming over-tired. Being over-tired is a state where your child is sleep and fatigued, but unable to sleep. This can lead to a multitude of issues, some of which include:

  • Frequent night waking;
  • Early rising;
  • Short, or broken naps;
  • Resisting nap time;
  • Moodiness;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Night terrors;
  • More chance of illness occurring as the immune system can be down.

Even with the guideline below, it can be tricky figuring out when to put your child down for sleep and when to determine wake time. Some subtle cues to figuring out when your little one is getting sleepy include:

  • Yawning;
  • Rubbing eyes;
  • Pulling at the ears;
  • Red eyes;
  • Rejecting toys and food;
  • Turning away from you;
  • Arching the back;
  • Staring into space;
  • Seeming disconnected from the environment;
  • Fussiness.

Guidelines for Your Baby’s Wake Time

Now that we understand the basics of sleep a little more, it’s time to get into wake times! Below are some estimates of waketimes that your baby should be having in between their naps. Each baby is different, so some babies will be able to stay awake for longer or shorter periods of time.

  • 1 – 3 months: 45 minutes — 1 hour
  • 3 – 4 months: 1 – 2 hours
  • 5 – 6 months: 2 – 3 hours
  • 7 – 8 months: 2 – 4 hours hours (greater awaketime in the afternoon if your baby has dropped the 3rd nap)
  • 9 – 12 months: 3 – 4 hours
  • 13-17 months: 3 – 5 hours
  • 18 months – 3 years: 5 – 6hrs

If you are running into bumps with over-tiredness and refusal to sleep, contacting a My NewBorn Baby Sleep Consultant is something to consider. Receiving expert help and tailored advice from a sleep specialist is a great way to get your child on track with sleep 

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Terms & Conditions

Jennifer is a qualified IMI Maternity and Child Sleep Consultant, Doula and MNT Maternity Nurse. These qualifications enable her to assist pregnant women with their sleep issues, support women during labour and the birthing process, guide parents during the postpartum period and educate families about their baby’s sleeping habits. Jennifer provides safe and gentle sleep training methods based on knowledge obtained during her studies, successful qualifications and 16+ years experience.

Jennifer has obtained her paediatric First Aid Training through KidZAid and is registered to work with babies and children in Australia and Europe. Techniques and methods used are all derived directly from her qualifications and from her many years of experience.

Jennifer’s advice does not replace the advice from your Doctor or Paediatrician, and her advice should not be relied upon as medical advice. For medical advice, you should always seek the advice from your medical practitioner. Therefore, you should consult with your health-care professional should you have any healthcare related questions or before embarking on a new sleep program. If a medical problem appears or persists, do not disregard or delay seeking medical advice from doctor. Accordingly, Jennifer expressly disclaims any liability, loss, damage, or injury caused by information provided to the client.

Jennifer will educate, support you and guide you through the sleep challenges needed to make change in your baby’s sleeping habits. As a Baby Sleep Consultant, Jennifer is not responsible for your application of the sleep solutions once the consultation has concluded. Once the sleep consultation has concluded it is the responsibility of the parent(s) to apply the agreed methods and solutions. Jennifer has an extremely high success rate, however, the success of Jennifer solutions is in the hands of the parents’ commitment & perseverance once the sleep consultation has ended; therefore Jennifer cannot make any guarantees of success. However, Jennifer will use her best endeavours to support you until the desired result has been achieved.

  • I agree to check with my healthcare provider/doctor if my baby has any medical conditions, which prevent them from being trained safely.
  • I agree to follow safe sleeping practices in line with SIDS recommendations (
  • I agree to disclose any medical conditions to Jennifer, which my baby has or has had previously.
  • I understand that my customised baby sleep program is meant for my baby only and should not be shared with a third party. I acknowledge the information might not be suitable for another baby.
  • Any changes I make to my baby’s sleeping or eating arrangements are my decision and Jennifer will only make suggestions for change, of which I am responsible for choosing to implement.
  • It is my responsibility to contact Jennifer for my follow up support and send the sleep log information through to be assessed for feedback as frequently as suggested.


In-Home Cancellation Policy
To confirm any In-Home Program, the client will be required to pay a 25% non-refundable deposit to secure the booking. The remaining amount of the In-Home Program will be required to be paid on the day after Jennifer leaves your home. Any cancellations barring medical or other emergencies will forfeit the deposit. If  you cancel less than 48 hours before the scheduled visit, the full amount will be required, unless Jennifer can backfill your place with someone on the waiting list.

If your baby is a little under the weather and does not have a temperature, the program can generally proceed as planned. If your baby is sick with a temperature or has been diagnosed with a medical condition by a doctor, the program will be postponed until your baby is better. A doctors certificate may be requested.

Remote Program/Phone Consultation
To confirm the Remote Program or Phone Consultation Jennifer will be required to be paid in full before sleep plans are constructed and the phone consultation takes place.

Remote Program Cancellation policy
The Remote Program and Phone Consultations are non-refundable after the start of sleep work (i.e. when any sleep advice has been delivered to the client via email, text, phone).

Acts of God or suspected medical conditions
If an act of God, such as a fire, flood, earthquake or other natural calamity shall cause you to cancel the sleep services, Jennifer will require payment only for the time actually spent sleep consulting. 

If during the In Home program, Jennifer feels the consultation should cease due to an underlying or undisclosed medical condition, Jennifer will require payment only for the time actually spent in your home. In this case, to keep the situation fair on both parties, the hourly rate is reduced down from the normal sleep consulting fees (as per the program booked) and charged at $50ph. 

Doctor’s appointment
Jennifer requests that every client has an appointment with their doctor to ensure their baby is developmentally on track and fit for sleep training. Written medical approval may be requested for certain circumstances.

Within 25km from Bondi Beach. An additional fee of $25ph travelled will be charged if travel is over 25kms.

As the client, you knowingly and voluntarily agree to waive and release Jennifer from any and all claims of liability or demands for compensation that you may acquire during the time working with Jennifer.

By checking this Agreement, you agree to the terms and conditions detailed within.