Sleep Training Help - How to Get Your Child to Not Wake Up Too Early
Tips to combat early rising – child waking up too early?
Parents’ morning times can vary greatly – some start as early as 4am, others are waiting for their child to wake still at 9am. Both of these wake times can cause issues later in the day. Waking up too early will likely mean the whole family will be tired in the afternoon and the bedtime ritual and schedule can get thrown off. Waking up too late in the morning can have the opposite effect – it can push the afternoon nap time later and, in turn, prolong bedtime. The only solution is to figure out the schedule that works best for you and your child and make sure that you all stick to it.
Sometime early risings can be thwarted with the installation of room-darkening window treatments – many children wake up too early when there’s too much light coming into their room. Having the room-darkening blinds can also help at nap time. A sound- or white-noise machine can help when there are sound distractions like garbage trucks or birds chirping. Sometime these simple things can do the trick, but many times it’s not so simple…
What's a "normal" wake up time for kids?
A six to six-thirty am wake up time is normal for kids, so if your child is waking up around that time and is bright and cheery you’ll have to learn to live with it most likely. Be sure that the child’s meal and nap times suit his early waking hour.
If you have a child or baby that wakes up before 6am or between 6-630am but is grump by 7am, sleep coaching to get them to learn to sleep later is necessary. Remember, the longer you let it happen the harder it will be to make a change so address it as soon as you can. Be prepared for it to take up to a few weeks before you see real results (even months if they are older), but if you are persistent and consistent it will work. Also of importance is to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep during the day. Skipping nap time to make your child more tired for bedtime can and will backfire. I say this all the time – “Sleep begets sleep!” – meaning, in this case, nap deprivation can cause nighttime sleep to be poor and can lead to early waking.
If you are dealing with a too early waking time for a baby under 8 months old and you believe she’s waking up too early due to hunger, try to wake her for a final feeding at around 11pm and also make sure she’s eating more during waking hours.
What do you do when you hear him waking too early?
I know it’s hard because your sleep ends up suffering, but you must go to his room right away when he starts to stir to try and get him back to sleep as quickly as possible before he wakes himself completely with screams. Don’t pick him up, give him his pacifier or other security object (that’s safe, of course) and soothe him back to sleep. No matter what, whether he goes back to sleep or not, don’t turn the light on or get him out of the crib until 6am. If you allow him to get out of the crib earlier will send the wrong message and your sleep and your child’s will suffer ongoing. Often parents who make the mistake of allowing their child to get up at, say 5:45, will soon see that turn into 5:30, then 5:15, etc.
When your child is still a baby or young toddler, it’s usually best to stay in the room with her during the early morning routine unless it’s obvious that your presence is causing her to be even more awake (you’d probably see this more with older kids.) If you do leave the room, first give some reassurance and then leave – hopefully she’ll fall asleep again on her own. It’s okay to check in on your child every 10-15 minutes; if you stay in the room be sure to keep the interaction minimal (sit in a chair and close your eyes.) Once 6am arrives, if your child has not fallen back asleep, leave the room for a minute or two (don’t worry if he cries, you’ll be back in a minute) and then when you come back in make it dramatic – make a big deal out of “Morning time!” Unlike the calming and soothing bedtime routine, the morning one is upbeat – this helps your child learn the difference between day and night. What you want your child to get out of it is that you are getting him out of the crib because it’s morning time, not because he was crying or screaming.
Dealing with an early riser who is sleeping in a “big bed” (usually a child who’s over 2-2 ½ years old.)
Treat these early risers as you would a middle of the night awakening – calmly bring her back to bed with minimal interaction and let her know it’s not wake-up time yet. Do as above – stay in the room if you have to until 6am arrives. If you think it would help your child, it’s okay to use an alarm clock radio or a light with timer that turns on at 6am to signal that it’s now okay to get up and start the day.
I know several parents who have used kids clocks like these successfully:
What Causes Early Rising?
The most common causes are (not necessarily in this order):
- A too late bedtime.
- Nap(s) not long enough.
- Too much awake time between the afternoon nap and bedtime (this interval shouldn’t exceed 4 hours.)
- Putting child to bed past his drowsy but awake window. She needs to know how to get herself to sleep when she’s alert, especially for those middle of the night awakenings.
Dealing with early rising due to Daylight Saving Time
Use her nap time to adjust to the new bedtime. Be sure her nap is after 12:00 pm and it is long enough so that bedtime is no more than 4 hours after she wakes up from her nap (for a well-rested preschooler, 5 hours is okay.)
If your older child is no longer napping, you can begin getting ready for the time change a week before it arrives by shifting your child’s schedule by 10-15 minutes each day to make the transition smooth. You can also accomplish the same result if you start when the time changes and simply take a few days to adjust.
Recap of important points
- It may not seem logical, but both skipping nap time and putting your child to sleep later (doing both or even one) will cause early awakenings – it’s TRUE!
- Room darkening shades can be extremely helpful.
- Until your child is taking good naps and sleeps through the night for a few weeks, don’t assume that he needs less sleep than the average.
- Don’t give up! It takes several weeks of consistency on your part to combat early rising and affect change – you’ll be happy in the end that you stuck it out.