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How do you design a day with an 8 am wake-up and 8 pm bedtime schedule?

In my work as a sleep consultant, I am frequently building a schedule for families that align to a 7 pm bedtime with a waking between 6:00 am and 7:00 am in the morning. While that schedule suits many working families well, who must be out the door, over the past 2 years, with the shift to more families working at home, I have also seen a shift in the schedule of babies to more of an 8:00 pm bedtime and awaking between 7:00 am and 8:00 am in the morning. The beauty of sleep and children is that you can set them up {within reason} to the best schedule that suits you, and in this blog, I explain how.

First, look to the sky. The sunlight {and its respective darkness} are the main thing that controls your baby’s body clock, AKA, their circadian rhythm, which develops between 3 & 4 months.

From there, set up their schedule for your day and adjust them. From birth, it’s easy to select that bedtime, however, if you are adjusting an older baby, do it gradually over a few days back to your ideal bedtime. For example, if your baby is going to bed at 10:00 pm and you want 8:00 pm, over a week, bring bedtime back 1 hour, for 3 days, then another hour for 2 days {if your goal is 7 pm vs 8 pm}, then to the ideal time, which you will then have their body adjust to, after about a week.

Finally, assess their total daytime sleep needs. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics both share similar total sleep needs for children. Now, how do you build out the ideal 8 am-8 pm day by age? Let me share some sample baby schedules for your 4-month-old, on 4 naps, your 5-month-old on 3 naps, your 7-month-old on 2 naps and you 13-month-old on one nap, so you can design your ideal day, balancing their sleep needs, the right awake windows and total daytime sleep – leading to a baby being less overtired and more balanced to sleep through the night.

Sample Nap Schedule for a 4-Month-Old

{who is just about start independently consolidating naps, which is a biological leap}

  • 8:00 am – awake for the day
  • 9:45 am – 10:30 am – Nap 1 – Unsupported, going down in the crib
  • 12:30 pm-1:15 pm – Nap 2 – Supported {walking, holding, driving} if they are still learning how to independently settle.
  • 3:00 pm – 3:45 pm – Nap 3 – Unsupported, going down in the crib
  • 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm – Nap 4 – Supported {walking, holding, driving}
  • 8:00 pm – Bedtime

This age is balanced because babies still need good daytime sleep while balancing the learning curve of self-soothing, without becoming overtired, which can trigger poor eating and multiple wakings overnight. I encourage 2 supported and 2 un-supported, over the next month, with all naps by 5 months mostly unsupported, with the balance being going out for a drive, walk, etc. for enjoyment where they nap vs. as HOW you get them to sleep. Make sense?

Sample Nap Schedule for a 5-Month-Old

  • 8:00 am – awake for the day
  • 10:15 am – 11:30 am – Nap 1 – Unsupported, going down in the crib
  • 1:45 pm – 3:00 pm – Nap 2 – Unsupported, going down in the crib
  • 5:15 pm – 6:00 pm – Nap 3 – Unsupported, going down in the crib
  • 8:00 pm – Bedtime

At 5 months and through about 6 months old, your nap schedule is going to start to shift to consistency and to consolidation. Naps will become longer, more predictable and children will settle without upset or protest, independently in the crib. Between 6 months and 7 months, depending on your baby’s ability to self-soothe, is when you move to 2 naps a day.

Sample Nap Schedule for a 7-Month-Old

  • 8:00 am – awake for the day
  • One of the following your babies will typically fall into:
    • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm and then 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
    • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm and then 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
    • 11:00 am – 12:30 pm and then 3:30pm – 5:00pm
  • 8:00 pm – Bedtime

If the baby can’t settle into one of these because of something like daycare, it’s more important they get around 3 hours of sleep in the day, regardless of the number of naps for an 8:00 pm to 8:00 am bedtime.

Sample Nap Schedule for a 13-Month-Old +

  • 8:00 am – awake for the day
    • 1:30 pm – to settle by 1:45 pm and then awake no later than 4:00 pm
      • Start dialing that back as babies grow and start waking early or fighting going down, as they only need so much sleep in a 24-hour period.
    • 8:00 pm – Bedtime

The most important thing for all parents to remember is to avoid a child getting overtired. Overtired signals to the brain you should be sleeping and you are not, so you must “want” to be awake, triggering stimulant hormones that flood your system and can cause trouble settling and multiple overnight wakings. Plus, it can get kids into the hampster wheel of poor sleep and short naps. This easy Total Sleep Needs by Age for ChildHow Much Sleep Should My Child Be Getting? chart by age for how to configure your child’s day by age will be helpful to you in planning that day, in addition to the sample schedules by age for the baby I shared above.

If you are in the middle of a sleep regression, start with ensuring you don’t have a bad habit on your hands. Then, look at your timing and ensure you have alignment close to these schedules, they work for a reason, even if it can seem like a stretch to get there.

If you find yourself still struggling, remember, we offer preliminary discovery calls for free, to discuss your struggles and help you determine if you need just a tweak something or if coaching with a baby sleep coaching professional is in better alignment with your needs. Book your call here and get started today. Join my free sleep community, call Slumber Made Simple for more help, coaching, and support.