3 week old sleep schedule: Bedtime and nap schedule

Updated Jul 01, 2024
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By now you’ve surely noticed that newborn sleep is pretty chaotic. Your 3 week old may take a 20-minute nap, stay awake for an hour, then snooze for two hours during their next sleep period! This is normal for babies in their first few months of life. Sleep schedules don’t typically become more predictable until closer to 3 - 4 months old. 

That said, in this article, we’ll walk you through what to expect (or not to expect) when it comes to sleep at 3 weeks and reassure you that your newborn’s sleep patterns are typical for this age group. 

Editor's Note

The recommendations listed in this article represent the average amount of sleep typically needed at this age. However, please note there is a wide range of normal as some children have lower or higher sleep needs. Also note for children who were born early, we go by their adjusted age for sleep development.


IN THIS ARTICLE: 

How much should a 3 week old sleep?

Naptime schedule for 3 weeks

Bedtime for 3 week olds

3 week old baby sleep FAQ


It’s hard work being a new baby! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns usually sleep for about 16 - 17 hours per day [1]. However, they may only sleep 30 minutes  - 2 hours at a time, even overnight as they wake for feeds and comfort. This is normal! While sleep may feel chaotic, rest assured that you can be doing everything “right” and babies still won’t have a typical 24-hour cycle for sleeping and eating until closer to 3 - 4 months of age.  

Babies can typically comfortably stay awake for around 30 - 90 minutes in these first few weeks, so you’ll likely feel like all you have time for is changing your baby’s diaper, feeding them, and then they’re ready to snooze again.  

Also, note that there’s a wide range of normal when it comes to babies and sleep. Don’t fret about hitting a specific number of hours or naps, especially in these first few weeks and months. These recommendations are just estimates. It’s important to gauge your baby’s overall mood and energy levels when evaluating whether or not they’re getting enough sleep every day. 

Due to an immature circadian sleep-wake system, most babies this age have sleep that’s pretty evenly distributed between day and night. However, it’s not uncommon for newborns to confuse night and day [2] in their first few weeks of life, which can result in babies wanting to sleep all day and party all night. 

Day/night confusion typically resolves at around 8 weeks. To help “fix” their day/night reversal a bit faster, try to keep your little one’s environment bright and noisy during the day and quiet and dark at night. It can also be helpful to do your best to avoid stimulating [1] or waking your child when you feed or change them overnight. 

While you may be eager to settle into a routine with your baby and work on sleep habits and a “schedule,” we won’t expect much regularity with their sleep until after they reach 3 - 4 months old. Timing and sleep durations can greatly vary in the beginning. 

However, consider taking advantage of their sleepiness and flexibility at this age. Newborns are typically pretty good at falling asleep when you’re out and about. Run that daytime errand [2], even if your little one doesn’t make it all the way home before falling asleep. However, be sure to move your baby to a firm surface on their back as soon as possible, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ [3] safe sleep recommendations. 

There’s not a magic number when it comes to 3 week old nap habits. Expect your baby’s nap lengths to be unpredictable since babies aren’t born with predictable or organized sleep cycles [4]. This means your little one could nap for 30 minutes or two hours and both would be considered “normal” at 3 weeks. 

Instead, try focusing on wake windows and sleepy cues when determining when your baby may be ready for sleep again. At 3 weeks, babies can usually stay awake for around 30 - 90 minutes before it’s time for sleep. If they’re rubbing their eyes, staring off into space, yawning, or becoming fussy, these may be sleepy cues that your baby is showing to indicate they’re ready for bed. Since these signs can be fleeting and easy to miss, we recommend aiming for a nap if they’ve been awake for over 1.25 hours and haven’t shown sleepy signs.

We don’t recommend trying to follow a specific sleep schedule or number of naps at 3 weeks old. Babies don’t have an organized circadian rhythm [5] in the first months of life, which means sleep will likely be without a pattern at this time. Instead, sleep is controlled by sleep pressure and hunger at 3 weeks. You’ll probably see short and long periods of sleep and plenty of wakings for food and snuggles over a 24-hour period. This is normal! 

Bedtime may be on the late side at this age since their schedule is still so irregular. Don’t be surprised if their longest stretch of sleep in a 24-hour period starts at 10:00 PM — or even later. This won’t last forever, though. Most babies will be ready for an earlier bedtime at around 3 - 4 months

You may be tempted to keep your baby up longer during the day in hopes of an earlier bedtime and longer stretches of overnight sleep, however, this can often lead to overtiredness. Being too tired makes it harder for a newborn baby to fall asleep and stay asleep versus a little one who’s had adequate daytime sleep.  

3 week old baby sleep FAQ

Q: Can a 3 week old baby sleep through the night?

A:

At 3 weeks, we don’t expect babies to sleep continuously through the night. Your little one needs to wake overnight for feedings and comfort. In fact, you should wake to feed a newborn baby around every 3 - 4 hours until they’re back to birth weight, have established a pattern of weight gain, and have been cleared by a pediatrician or lactation consultant. Check with your child’s healthcare provider to determine how many nighttime feedings your child may need.

Q: How often do 3 week old babies sleep?

A:

While 3 week old babies won’t have a set sleep schedule, you can pay attention to their sleepy cues and wake windows to determine when to offer your baby the opportunity to sleep. At this age, little ones usually need to sleep again after around 30 - 90 minutes of awake time. If your newborn gets a glazed look in their eye, begins looking away from you, or starts rubbing their eyes, they’re probably ready for some shuteye.

Q: How much nighttime sleep for a 3 week old?

A:

Newborns may be in their sleep space at night for 9 - 12 hours, though they’ll wake multiple times for feeding and comfort. At 3 weeks, it’s common for a baby to have a very late bedtime, as their sleep schedule is still very irregular.

Q: How much awake time for a 3 week old?

A:

Babies typically can stay awake for around 30 - 90 minutes between sleep periods in their first month of life. Oftentimes awake periods will be shorter in the morning and get slightly longer as the day progresses.

Q: How much daytime sleep for a 3 week old?

A:

Daytime sleep is likely to be a little all over the place during the first few months of a baby’s life. You may see 5 - 6 hours of sleep spread out over many naps. Instead of focusing on the number of naps or hours of daytime sleep, we recommend paying attention to total sleep in a 24-hour period. Evaluate your child’s mood and energy levels to try to determine if they’re getting enough rest.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

5 Sources

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2024). Safe Sleep Tips for Sleep-Deprived Parents. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/default.aspx

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Reversing Day-Night Reversal. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Reversing-Day-Night-Reversal.aspx

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics (2023). How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx/

  4. National Library of Medicine (2022). Development of the circadian system in early life: maternal and environmental factors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9109407/

  5. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (2014). Longitudinal Study of Sleep Behavior in Normal Infants During the First Year of Life. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/full/10.5664/jcsm.4114