Early rising or early morning waking is when a little one repeatedly wakes for the day earlier than 6a.m.
Parents often say ‘my child’s just an early riser’ but this doesn’t have to be the way! We can get your little one sleeping soundly to at least 6a.m consistently, we just need to figure out the cause of the early mornings and address it.
The number one reason for early rising is over tiredness.
When a parent tells me their child is waking really early every day, I immediately investigate 3 things;
- Whether or not they are getting enough daytime sleep
- If they’re awake for too long between sleeps
- If bedtime is regularly too late.
Most of the time one or more of those things is the cause of the early starts.
It may sound strange and certainly counter-intuitive because you’d think a tired child would sleep in, right?
Nope, being over tired actually leads to shorter and less restful periods of sleep and this is why it catches so many people out. The idea of ‘wearing a child out’ or keeping them awake in the day so they will sleep at night is actually the worst thing you can do.
So the first step to resolving early morning wake ups is to have a look at your child’s schedule.
- How much daytime sleep did they ought to be getting?
- What’s the maximum amount of time they should be awake for between sleeps
- and are they getting to bed at a consistent and sensible time each night?
Fixing this up could resolve the early waking within a week or two.
Other top tips for helping to reduce early rising include; blackout blinds, sleep-wake triggers and how you respond.
Blackout blinds are great because it’s important to block out ALL of the natural light from your little one’s room. Any form of daylight is known as ‘blue light’ and, just like screens, it affects the production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. In other words, it fools us into thinking it’s time to be awake. If you or your child need some light in the room, go for a very dim red or amber night light but keep the natural light out when it’s sleep time.
A sleep-wake clock or trigger is fantastic for teaching little ones when it is time to be asleep and when it is okay to wake up for the day. From around 20 months of age, a child can understand a simple trigger. Personally, I love the KidsSleep clocks which have a little character on them who is clearly tucked up in bed at night or up in the sunshine when it’s daytime – Having the picture to give the child a visual cue is great and it’s easier to understand than trying to teach them that certain shapes or colours mean sleep or wake time. A simple light timer is okay too. When the light is off, it’s sleep time. When the light turns on, it’s okay to wake up.
The last key to managing an early riser is to have a consistent response to each and any waking in the night and to maintain this response until at least 6a.m when it is okay to wake for the day. If you allow your little one to continually start the day really early, this will become ingrained in their body clock and a habit. We want to show them that it’s still night time and not yet time to be up.
I’ll tell you now, when a little one is waking regularly at around 5a.m due to over tiredness, it is unlikely that he or she will actually go back to sleep, they’re usually wired, but nevertheless you need to keep going with your nighttime response until 6a.m whilst working on the other things to overcome the over tiredness.
So a quick recap;
Establish where the over tiredness is coming from and begin working on replenishing your little one’s sleep tank. Prepare the room with blackout blinds, a night light if needed and a sleep wake trigger like a clock or a light on timer and know how you are going to respond consistently to any wakings that happen before 6a.m.
Early rising can take a little time to resolve so be patient and persistent and really consistent with your little one’s overall sleep amounts to overcome this as smoothly as possible.
If you’ve found this helpful, please share it with a friend who might benefit from it too, we want to help as many tired families as possible.
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