Updated: May 17, 2021
Do you have an early riser on your hands?
Are you tired of dragging yourself out of bed at 5am to start the day?
Early rising is probably one of the most common complaints parents have about their baby or toddler’s sleep.
Our bodies are hard wired to wake somewhere between 6-7am, so when our children wake earlier than 6am they are missing out on precious, restorative night sleep, and so are you.
The good news is, there are a few things you can try today to help everyone get a little more shut eye in the mornings.
Day sleep and how it can affect those early hours of the morning
Overall day sleep has a big impact on how your child sleeps at night.
Too much day sleep may mean your child is just simply not tired enough to sleep 11-12 hours at night.
The timing of your child's day sleep is also important. If their afternoon nap is too long or extends too late into the afternoon, they won’t have built enough sleep pressure to help them sleep through to 6/7am.
If your child is suddenly waking early and they are happy and full of energy to start their day check to see if they are ready for a nap transition.
More commonly though is not enough day sleep. If your child is not sleeping well during the day they will become overtired. Over tiredness leads to an increase in the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin which contributes to broken sleep. This fragmented sleep perpetuates the overtired cycle, often resulting in early rising.
Try to ensure your child has at least one consolidated nap during the day (longer than one sleep cycle) and that bedtime isn’t too late, especially on days where their naps haven't been great.
Early to bed does not mean early to rise.
The timing and length of the morning nap can also be a contributing factor. If your baby wakes early you are probably going to be tempted to put them down for their morning nap early and let them sleep longer to compensate. This is fine on the odd occasion, however, if you are struggling with a persistent early morning wake and find you are needing to put your little one down early for their first nap on a regular basis, this can in fact reinforce the early rising cycle.
Following an age appropriate nap routine will give you confidence knowing your little one is getting the right amount of sleep during the day.
In the early hours of the morning, your baby fluctuates between mostly the lighter stages of sleep. This means that they are more easily roused by external factors.
Make sure your little one is nice and warm all night long. Opt for a sleeping bag over blankets. Children move around a lot in their sleep and they will get cold if they can't keep the blankets on.
Make their room as dark as possible. If they wake and can see daylight streaming through the windows after sunrise it can be very difficult to persuade them that they need to go back to sleep or stay in bed longer.
Some families also find that the noise of a parent getting up early for work can wake their child. This is obviously unavoidable, so, by using white noise in your child’s room you can help drown out any household or street noises.
For more information, check out my top 7 tips for the perfect sleep environment here.
For older babies and toddlers, early rising can become a bit of a habit. If your child has been waking up early over a long period of time, their body may just be used to it.
Our circadian rhythm (body clock) is set by light, food and social interaction. If your child is constantly exposed to any or all of these things when they wake early their body begins to expect this and they will continue to wake at this time, even when the original cause for the wake has passed.
As with any changes around your child's sleeping habits, tackling early morning wakes takes patience, persistence and consistency. There is no quick fix, but hopefully by going through this list you will be able to assess your baby and make some adjustments to help them (and you) sleep in a little longer.
If you're tired of starting your day at 5am, try the Early Morning Wakes Solved E-Guide.
One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x