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Wake Times or Clock Times: Which is Better?

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

It’s true. Babies have natural times throughout the day when their body will accept and welcome sleep to recharge. This is called a 'by the clock' schedule which means your baby sleeps at the same times each day. These times on the clock are relevant to your baby’s age and stage. Let’s talk about what that looks like.

When can you use times on the clock for baby’s naps?

Around 6-8 months old, you can start to look at the clock for nap time instead of baby’s wake window. There are a few reasons why this is a great age to ditch wake windows:

· Night sleep has consolidated.

· The number of naps is decreasing from 3-2.

· Sleep cues can become unreliable.

· You’re ready for more consistency.

These are all great reasons to reference the clock for sleep instead of the suggested wake window, but until your child is on two naps per day, it will still be important to monitor their wake windows. Doing so will easily allow all their naps to stay welcome while reducing the chances of an overtired baby.

How to follow a Wake Window Schedule

If your baby is 4 to 5 months old, be sure to monitor your their wake windows closely. Place your baby down into their bed JUST as the wake window ends. It’s not suggested to ‘buffer’ in the time it takes to fall asleep. If a baby is laid down when not tired enough, it could cause crying or a nap refusal. On the other hand, staying awake too long will increase crying, irritability and inability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Your baby’s wake windows will get longer throughout the day. In the morning, babies are ready to return to sleep much quicker than at 3 or 4 PM, so keeping this in mind will help your baby take that much needed, restorative morning nap in a cool, dark room. Reference this chart for wake windows by age and be sure to save the graphic!

Baby wake time chart

How to move baby to a clock-based schedule?

Choosing a desired wake time, like 7:00AM, and anchoring your child’s naps to support the morning wakeup is really where you will see that structured schedule take hold. Yes things come up like appointments, errands, and other things, but for the most part, your baby will take their naps at the same time every single day!

Once your baby is on two naps per day, you have our permission to drop the wake windows..with ONE exception. If your baby is newly on 2-naps per day, you will want to watch out for overtiredness before bedtime. The sweet spot on newly transitioned baby is 3.25-3.5 hours before bedtime. You will want to do EVERYTHING in your power to avoid 4 hours before bedtime. Baby can’t handle four hours before bedtime until closer to 10-12 months old. This means that you should watch the wake window before bed and if your child has an inconsistent second nap, you will bring bedtime earlier.

Here's our favorite 2-nap schedule.

example of 2-nap schedule

Other examples of by the clock schedules:


8-10 months old

· 7:00 AM wake

· 9:45-11:00/11:15 AM nap

· 2:15-3:30 PM nap

· 7:15 PM Bedtime

11-12 months old schedule

· 7:00 AM wake

· 10:00-11:00 AM nap

· 2:30-3:30 PM nap

· 7:30 PM Bedtime

Example by the clock schedules for toddlers:

13-14 months old two-nap schedule

· 7:00 AM wake

· 10:00-11:00 AM nap

· 3:00-4:00 PM nap

· 8:00 PM Bedtime

15-17 months old one-nap schedule

· 7:00 AM wake

· 12:00-2:00/2:30 PM nap

· 6:45/7:00 PM Bedtime

18-month-old schedule

· 7:00 AM wake

· 12:30-2:00/2:30 PM nap

· 7:00/7:15 PM Bedtime

2-year-old schedule

· 7:00 AM wake

· 1:00-2:30/3:00 PM nap

· 7:30 PM Bedtime

By the Clock Schedules with Toddlers

Listen up! We are here to say that by the clock schedules work best for toddlers. Toddlers are cray, and reducing the number of variables in their day will be the pathway to less meltdowns. TRUST us on that!

Toddler Sleep Tips and What to Do if They Take a Short Nap

It’s important to remember that toddler sleep schedules don’t need a bunch of variation and manipulation. When you alter the sleep times too much, the nap lengths and bedtimes/morning wake times will become inconsistent. If your toddler takes a short nap, try to hit their usual bedtime as best as possible. Flexing their sleep times day after day will indeed cause frustrations and problems.

If your toddler take short naps, they may be getting too much night sleep. Total sleep needs for toddlers is around 12-13 hours TOTAL in the day and night. If bedtimes and naps seem a struggle lately, utilizing a color clock such as the Hatch can be an additional tool to increase sleep times and crib autonomy.

What is crib autonomy?

Time that your child spends in the crib awake but happy is considered self-governed time where they can rest, play and generally be self-settled. Practicing crib autonomy can be a gateway into an easy toddler bed transition, as well. Crib autonomy can be practiced even in the baby stage by leaving baby in the crib for an additional 5-10 minutes once they have woken from their nap. Enter the room at the end of the waiting period with a big smile and lots of kisses and hugs. Continue to practice and your baby can start to wake up happy while you get your cup of coffee or shower.

Benefits of using a BTC/By the Clock Schedule

1. Your baby’s days are really predictable.

2. Crib autonomy can be established.

3. Your child’s body knows when it's sleep time and accepts sleep easily.

Benefits of a Schedule using Wake Times

1. Your baby will be less prone to becoming overtired.

2. You have the opportunity to manipulate the schedule for appointments or preschool runs.

3. Nap transitions can be delayed.

This article is here to help you decide IF your baby is ready for a clock schedule and how to put them on one. Clock schedules are very predictable, and because of that, it will take some dedication on your part. If predictable sleep routines are what you desire, then a clock-based schedule is right for you and your family!

Pediatric sleep consultant, Lindsay Loring, is the author of this article. Lindsay is a sleep expert in twin, toddler and baby sleep. If your nights are not filled with sweet dreams, reach out to Lindsay today by booking a free sleep evaluation call.

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