What is Drowsy but Awake?

If you have done any baby sleep research you will have come across this odd phrase, 'Drowsy but Awake.' You may have even been told by a well-meaning mom to make sure you 'put your baby down 'drowsy but awake.'' And this is good advice in general - if baby knows how to fall asleep on their own, they'll have a much easier time falling asleep through the night. But do you know what that actually means? Because most sleep-deprived moms don't, and it turns out this is a huge game changer! To me as a first time mom it meant my baby looked sleep drunk. Closing eyelids, swaying head, the whole deal. But I was wrong!



If your baby looks half asleep.... that's because she is!


Babies that are older than 4 months (on average) sleep in Sleep Cycles, just like we do. Each Sleep Cycle starts with a very, very light stage and then moves into deeper stages before finishing. This is a very simplified version of REM cycles, but I'll save that for another post. Important thing here is to know that if your baby is closing her eyelids slowly or looks like she's about to fall down asleep- she is in her first sleep stage and no longer awake.


This is why so many of my clients will swear they put down their baby awake in their crib but then baby cries and won't settle down: Because they were in their first sleep stage and their environment changed! They fell asleep in their favorite person's arms but just as they were about to drift off to a deeper stage of sleep they are placed in a different flat surface- you would probably freak out too!


To make sure baby knows how to fall asleep on their own, you must make sure you put them down in their crib completely awake, but sleepy. I have therefore decided to re-name this 'Sleepy but Awake' instead of drowsy.


Sleepy but Awake means that baby is READY to sleep:

  • They have just finished their great bedtime routine (coming soon in a post)

  • They have not been awake for too long or too little (check out my baby sleep chart here)

  • The environment is perfect,

  • They feel loved.

  • They KNOW it is bedtime.

Because of these reasons, it also means they are very clearly sleepy:

  • Their eye movement has slowed down

  • Their limb movement is also slower

  • If you cuddle them or carry them they will place their head on your shoulder.


When you put a baby down in their crib "Sleepy but Awake," his eyes will still be open, and you won't be in danger of waking them up from their first cycle-- because they haven't fallen asleep yet! If you're still having a hard time with this concept, shoot me an email! If you feel like you're doing this and everything else right but baby is still not sleeping through the night, read this post, or send me an email to book a consultation!

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Tel: (650) 862 - 8011

Andrea De La Torre

Sleep Consultant 

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