No parent wants to start their day before 6 am and so if your toddler is popping into your room before the sun comes up you may just be ready to throw in the towel. Early morning wakings are unfortunately a fairly common problem. Fortunately,
I have a few tips on how to combat these early morning wakings and cut down on the number of hours we all spend awake.
Some kids are just early risers. If you or your spouse naturally tend to wake up early then odds are there is a biological component to your child’s early mornings. It doesn’t mean you have to suffer but it does mean you may need to adjust your expectations a bit and embrace an earlier start to the day.
Early Bedtime Doesn’t Mean Early Morning
It seems counterintuitive that if we go to bed early we’ll sleep later, right? Well for kids that’s exactly what happens. Kids need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Their body clocks want to sleep between 7-8 pm and 6-8 am. When they stay up later their bodies begin to produce a hormone to help them stay awake. Once we miss the sleepy time window it actually becomes harder for them to fall asleep which will lead to an early morning waking. Our bodies begin to produce the wake-up hormone again around 3 am to prepare us for the day. If your child already had a surplus of that hormone left over from bedtime it causes that early morning.
The best thing you can do is be consistent about bedtime. Honor their body clock and shoot for a 7-8 pm lights out. You can even do bedtime as early as 6:30 pm if your little one is very tired. Beginning to combat the overtiredness with an early bedtime is a good way to start.
Morning is not before 6 am
It’s important to have a boundary around the timing for bed. We’ve talked about going to bed so what time should we be waking up? In order to get the recommended hours of sleep at night I like to set the “not before 6 am” boundary. If your little one is still napping during the day a 6 o’clock wake-up will help them make it nap time without too much trouble. It allows time to get ready for daycare or school and encourages their bodies to rise within an hour of the sunlight depending on your location and the time of year. If your little one wakes up before the 6 am boundary it should be treated like a nighttime wake-up, not morning.
- Keep things dark and quiet
- Check on them after a few minutes to make sure there isn’t a problem
- Give them time to settle themselves
- Be ok with the fact that sometimes it takes more time than we’d like to adjust their body clock
The Early Morning Environment Checklist
I always encourage parents to do a quick check of their child’s environment to make sure it is conducive to sleeping later in the morning.
Here are some things to look for-
- Brightness (The darker the room the less stimulating it will be)
- Noise (Is the air vent kicking on, does the neighbor leave for work, is the trash truck making the rounds, did a dog bark)
- Temperature (Is your baby Goldilocks? Too hot, too cold, or just right? Check cheeks, hands, and feet to see if your little one is too warm or too chilly)
- Response (Has this become a habit because you respond too quickly? Are they looking for your attention and interaction? Give them a few minutes to settle themselves.)
Children learn from consistency. If bedtime is the same every night and morning is the same time every day then they will know what to expect from you. Kids love to know what to expect, it helps them feel secure and in control. Don’t lose heart if you have been waking up at 5 am for the last month, just keep at it. 5 am is not morning, so don’t give in and treat it like morning. Our kids take their cues from us so stick to your 6 o’clock boundary! It will be worth it.
If you feel like you’ve done all of these things and it’s just not working book a call with me, and we can get you back on track!