Early Rising – Causes and Solutions

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Has your previously fantastic sleeper started waking early or have you always been up in the early hours with your little one?

You would be surprised how often I am asked “how can I get my little one to sleep in later?” As a Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant I class anything from 6am as morning and anything prior to that is still nighttime in my book.

The effect early rising can have on a family is immense. Early rising is one of the trickier sleep issues to fix due to it being at the end of the little ones night time sleep and the hormones are not on our side.

So the first thing is to be realistic, as I have already mentioned 6am onwards is really classed as morning in the little ones world. We would all love to have a baby that sleeps until 8 am but those babies are very few and far between. So don’t set the expectation bar too high.

If they are waking at 6am or after and are happy and well rested it is unlikely you can change this to get them to sleep later. However if they are waking in the hour of 5 or earlier then there is room to work and improve.

Believe it or not, the main cause of early rising is overtiredness. When little one is in a state of overtiredness their body releases extra cortisol – This is a hormone and acts like a shot of adrenaline. It helps the body to stay awake and alert. You may have experienced this yourself on occasions where you are struggling to stay awake and then in the next moment you are fine again and full of energy, this is due to the shot of cortisol being released.

The cortisol levels drop down overnight and the sleepy hormone melatonin starts to be released but only until around 3/4am, when it stops. If they are already in a state of sleep debt the cortisol remains very high meaning they find it even harder to resettle and will often wake fully.

So how do you solve overtiredness?

First off, make sure little one is getting enough day time sleep. Cutting out naps will not help them sleep longer, it will only make matters worse.

So check they are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age and then check the amount of time they are spending awake between sleeps, this period is referred to as a ‘wakeful window’ and changes with little ones age. If they are awake for too long between sleeps this causes overtiredness which can make it harder to get them down for their nap or bedtime, adding to the sleep debt.

It may be worth introducing in a little cat nap or top up nap (age dependant) at the beginning or end of the day to help top up that sleep bank, and never be afraid of doing bedtime a bit earlier for a few days to help with topping up the sleep. Despite popular belief this will not result in them waking up even earlier.

If you are needing to go into your child during the early wake ups then keep in mind they have no idea what the time is and however you choose to respond to them make sure you stick to that response and stay consistent. For older children (2 years plus) reward charts are fantastic incentives and in some cases clocks such as the Gro clock can also be a great aid.

Just remember to stick with these tips, it will not be a quick fix, it does take time.

But if you stay consistent after a few days you should start to see and improvement and those early rises will soon be a thing of the past.

Get in touch with Vickie today if you would like more information on how much sleep your little one needs.

Blog by Vickie Gordon, Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant.

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