How Important Is “Drowsy But Awake”?

  • 0
  • October 22, 2015
How Important Is “Drowsy But Awake”?

Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, post your question on my Facebook Page! I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and today I’m going to answer Ashley’s question:


“My 11-month-old has always been a terrible sleeper but she does well with naps. We put her down drowsy and she’ll toss and turn and fall asleep on her own most of the time. At night she gets sleepy around 7:30 p.m. She’s already eaten and had a bottle or a sippy cup and we’ll rock and swing her and when she gets drowsy I’ll put her in her crib.

“She will lie there for a few minutes and then she’s up standing and crying bloody murder. This happens about 5 times before she actually really falls asleep. During the night she’s up, too, and we do the whole thing over again. I tried cry-it-out for ten minutes and I am not sure if I should do it for longer. I’ll take any suggestions.




An 11-month-old needs on average about 11.25 hours of sleep at night and 2.5 hours of sleep during the day. The 2.5 hours for naptime is usually spread over two naps. Sometimes when we do nap coaching we have to add a third “bonus” nap so that your baby can make it to bedtime and not be completely exhausted.


sleeping toddler girl is wearing a pajama

sleeping toddler girl is wearing a pajama

Check the Nap Schedule


You didn’t say whether your baby is well-napped. You did say that she goes down well for the naps but I would want to check and see whether the timing of her naps are good and if they total approximately two and a half hours.


Start With Adjusting Bedtime


It sounds like she may be getting too drowsy at bedtime. What I mean is that if she is so drowsy that she nods off when put her in the crib because of exhaustion then she may not have mastered fully the skill of putting herself to sleep from a more wakeful state.

Remember that bedtime is the easiest time to learn how to put yourself to sleep. If you don’t have it mastered at bedtime, it is very hard to learn how to do that in the middle of the night. It is even more difficult if she also tends to have an an early rising and short nap struggles. So, let’s make some adjustments that will help her master the skill of going to sleep and back to sleep.


An Early Bedtime


I notice that you said “we’ll rock and sing and when she gets drowsy I’ll put her in the crib.” I would start there and adjust your bedtime routine.

I think you might want to consider an earlier bedtime because it seems like she may be sleep deprived from waking multiple times at night. Ideally you want to get her to bed during her magical bedtime window. The magical hour for her may be 7 p.m. which by that time she should have finished her bottle.


Drowsy But Awake


If she still seems too wide awake, you can read her a short book. If you wantto continue to sing a song because it’s part of your ritual, I would recommend you sing with the light on and not for too long. It is not your job or goal to get her more drowsy. Your goal is for her to be drowsy but awake. I define drowsy but awake as “I’m dry, I’m fed, I’m warm, I’m clean, I’m loved and now it’s time for me to go to into my bed.”


Awake is Better Than Too Drowsy

How Important Is “Drowsy But Awake”?


I think that as your daughter has become older and smarter, it is possible that she’s on to you. She may sense what is going on and think “Oh, yeah, you’re going to get me almost there, but not completely asleep, and then you’re going to put me into the crib.” She may feel a little tricked which may be why she is screaming, as you were saying. To avoid giving this mixed signal, I would put her in her crib more awake.


Decide on a Sleep Method You Can Live With – Consistently!


Decide on the sleep method that you feel comfortable with and that you can follow through with consistently. Since you’ve tried cry-it-out for ten minutes, which I understand is a long time to hear your child cry, you have nothing to lose by starting off with The Sleep Lady Shuffle.

You can always decide later to move faster through The Shuffle and start leaving the room and doing checks but you don’t have to start there.. The most important issue is to pick the method that seems the right match for your child’s temperament and that you can follow through with consistently.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with your friends by clicking below, or ask a question on The Sleep Lady Facebook page.

Share this article: Share on Facebook
Email this to someone
Tweet about this on Twitter
Pin on Pinterest

Some of the posts featured on this website may contain affiliate links. This means I have the potential to receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase something using one of my links. This allows me to help cover the expense of running the site while keeping the content 100% free. Note that I only recommend products I believe in. Your support is appreciated!