I am not a morning person. I am so glad that early rising is not an issue for my children. However, early rising (waking before 6 am) is a very common sleep problem for young kids and babies, and possibly the topic I get asked about the most. Super early mornings lead to a tired, cranky kid which, of course, leads to tired, cranky parents. Waking up too early often pushes naps too early and throws the whole day’s schedule off. The solution is to be consistent about not letting your child start their day before 6 am. You really don’t want to support this sleep cycle because when your child starts school, it is likely they will be tired! Early rising can be a very stubborn habit so it’s best to try and break it as soon as possible.
The four common causes of early rising are:
- going to bed too late (This makes your child overtired which leads to poor quality sleep and often leads to early mornings.)
- nap deprivation (less daytime sleep=less nighttime sleep)
- too big of a window of wakefulness between the last nap and bedtime (which is determined by your child’s age)
- going to bed too drowsy (If she doesn’t have to work at putting herself to sleep at bedtime, she may not be able to put herself back to sleep at 4 or 5 am.)
If you are letting your child do any of these things first thing in the morning, you may ingrain the early rising:
- watching TV or getting some other sort of screen time
- getting a bottle/ cup of milk right away
- getting to come into mom and dad’s bed
Tips to get your child sleeping past 6 am:
- Pick a sleep training method and stick to it! See this post for options on sleep training methods and treat all wakings before 6 am as night wakings. http://www.tulsapediatricsleepconsulting.com/what-is-the-best-sleep-coaching-method-for-your-child/
- Go to her room immediately and try to get her back to sleep! Don’t let her scream herself awake. Give her a lovey and try to soothe her back to sleep without picking her up or turning on any lights.
- Do a dramatic wake up! If your child wakes before 6 a.m. and doesn’t go back to sleep, you would want to go in at 6 a.m. and say “good morning” and turn on the lights. Treat this waking very different from a middle of the night waking. You will have to teach your kid to stick to it!
- If your child is older then 15 months and only taking one nap a day, don’t let her nap before noon!
- If your child is 2.5 or older, try a wake up clock: http://www.tulsapediatricsleepconsulting.com/resources/
- Make sure the room is dark! I like true blackout shades better than room darkening shades. (I actually have a blackout liner, shutters, and curtains on my children’s windows. It can never be too dark!)
- Make sure the room is quiet! Birds chirping or the trash truck outside at 5 am can wake your child. Here is the link to the “Resources” page of my website which has some options for great white noise machines: http://www.tulsapediatricsleepconsulting.com/resources/.
- Make sure your child receives enough calories during the day! Otherwise you might question whether she needs to eat in those early morning hours.
- Try Overnight Diapers! If your child wakes up because of a leaky diaper, you may want to try the Overnights because they are super-absorbent. (My 2 y.o. can go 12+ hours in the Huggies Overnights and has never had a leak. You can also try going up a size, using an insert, and limiting the amount your child drinks in the evenings.)