Updated: Aug 4
"I love it when my baby wakes at 5am" said no parent ever!
Early rising/early morning wake ups are a pain in the proverbial and can take a long time to sort out. The key is firstly being a bit of a sleep detective and trying to find ANY reason why this is happening.
Early mornings I would say are the 5am wake ups, 6am I think is fair game, 4/4.30am is still the middle of the night.
Here's some information to help:
What time is your child going to bed?
Lots of children struggle to sleep more than 11 hours a night some even less so look at the time your child goes to bed.
Is it too early? If yes try sifting it by 15 minute increments every night or couple of nights and see if that helps.
Does your child go to bed too late? How long does your child take to fall asleep?
Does you child have genuine low sleep needs? Do they really need less sleep? Do they wake up happy at 5am and will happily last until after their nap time? Or do they wake up grumpy, look tired and fall asleep easily before naptime?
If your child still has a nap(s). A nap too early in the morning can reinforce early morning wake ups. This is because the body learns it is going to have a nap early in the morning so it doesn't sleep the last part of the night sleep.
There are many factors when all addressed can help with early morning wake ups:
Ok so meal times - eating at regular times really makes a difference - it help's set your circadian rhythm (body's internal body clock)
Light - is your baby's room as dark as it can be, do you leave the landing light on? Do they have a night light? If your child is genuinely scared of the dark you can use a red night light.
When your child wakes early you want to keep them in the dark, for 10-15 minutes each day or few days until you reach 6am. If you can't leave your child during this time then go in the room and sit with them in the dark. When it is time to wake up, open the curtains, turn the light on, good morning. It's the last thing you want to do but it's important. You want your child to wake up due to the environment cues - light=wake up time. Not getting up and going downstairs when it's still dark.
Social interaction - ideally you don't want to go into your child as soon as they wake, however if you can't leave your child and go into their room keep it dark, calm and boring.
No tv or screens until later in the morning or ideally after lunch. Often children wake up early to watch something or play a game. It's so easy to do at 5am when you're so bloody tired, I know I've been there but if your child wakes early you go in and start chatting or negotiating or take them downstairs and turn the TV on it's only going to reinforce the early wake up.
Noise - are there any noises that are waking your child up. They are in a very light sleep around 5am so the slightest noise can wake them up. 10pm you can go in your child's room and put their clothes away, 5am and the boiler switching on can wake them up. Does a parent get up and shower early, dog barking, birds outside the window? If yes pink/white noise can help block out any environment noises.
Food - don't feed your child until breakfast time. There is loads of research showing that meal times effect our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) If you have been feeding your child even if it's just a cup of milk shift this later 15 minutes each morning until your reach breakfast time
(I'm not referring to young babies here - baby wakes early you feed them)
Temperature - check your child isn't cold, body temperature drops over night. Are they using a duvet - can they pull this back over themselves if they get cold. Do they need an extra layer through the night? Socks for bed work well to help control body temperature.
Activity - is your child getting enough exercise during the day. Get them out into day light early in the morning. Make sure your child has a clear, calm & wind down routine before the bedtime routine.
When your child wakes early don't get them up like mentioned earlier keep any activity/interaction to the bare minimum.
Gro clocks (other brands available!) are popular - personally I'm not a fan they emit a blue light for a start which is a major design flaw - you can turn this off but then they can't count the stars etc.
You can buy night lights that you put on a timer to come on when it's the right time for your child to wake up so when they see the light = wake up time.
Whatever you do it's not going to be a magic fix, you have to explain to your child this is what is going to happen you can't come out of your room until the light shows and follow through with it you must be consistent every morning otherwise it gives the child mixed signals.
Early wake ups and rising take a long time to resolve so you need to be patient and consistent.
There's loads more information to help with early morning wake ups and other common sleep issues in my Facebook group. click here to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/trusttraceyclosed/