Drowsy But Awake


Many parents are familiar with hearing sleep experts say put your baby to sleep drowsy but awake.  What exactly does this mean and how can you successfully do this?  There are 4 things to consider to achieve this goal which will help your baby learn to sleep.

  • Age of baby
  • Timing of wake intervals
  • Identifying drowsy signals
  • Baby in not overtired

Age of Baby

If you have a newborn, chances are drowsy but awake will not work.  Newborns are very sleepy during the first 2 weeks and most likely will fall asleep while feeding or holding so just enjoy your new baby and ignore this advice.  Even up till 6 weeks of age this is not something you will be able to do as babies have short wake windows and haven’t established any consistent sleep patterns and it will be by accident if you can achieve this.  After 6 weeks of age you can begin to try this technique but don’t get too upset when it doesn’t work as it will be hit and miss.  Following the other factors, I talk about will help you and when a baby is a bit older between 3 and 4 months this will work more effectively.

Timing of wake intervals

If you read my other blogs on sleep you will know how important sleep cycles and states of consciousness affect this concept of drowsy but awake. Go to links below to read these articles.



Baby sleep cycles slowly mature from birth to 6 months of age.  Newborns have intervals of wakefulness of only about 30 minutes.  As baby gets older the wake windows slowly increases from 30 minutes to 90 minutes around 3 months of age and by 4 ½ months they may be able to do one 3-hour stretch during the day.  What???  Yes, babies need 16 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period during the early months after birth.  So many parents think if their baby can stay awake a lot longer they will sleep better at night.  Not true this only creates a very fussy baby because they are really too tired but just don’t know how to go to sleep.  It is up to the parents to recognize these wake windows and put their babies down to sleep much earlier than they think.  If you do you will have a happier baby and a well-rested baby.

Identifying drowsy signs

So what are the drowsy signs?  Every baby is different but being aware of these wake windows can help you identify what your baby’s drowsy signs are.  Some of the things to look for are

  • Decreased activity and moving slower
  • Less vocal
  • Quiet and calm
  • No longer interested in her surroundings
  • Eyes not as bright and unfocused
  • Yawning
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Getting fussy

When some of these signs appear you need to get your baby to bed.  If you haven’t finished your bedtime routine, cut it short and act fast.  Your window is closing and if you miss it you will pay by having a fussy baby that can’t settle down and go to sleep.

Baby is not over tired

Lastly the concept of drowsy but awake will not work if baby is over tired.  So ensuring baby is well rested and not over tired is critical. If your baby passes through the drowsy zone and into the tired zone this will not work.  A baby has a hard time going to sleep if they are overly tired.  The new problem is not putting him down drowsy, that window is gone. The problem is he is so tired that he is in a state of fussiness and fatigue that is hard to undo.

Final words

So keep these facts in mind when you hear the concept drowsy but awake.  If you follow these guidelines you and your baby can achieve success of achieving good sleep habits by going to sleep independently through drowsy but awake.

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