Tips For The Early Riser

Who wants to start their day at 5am? Not me! If your baby or toddler is consistently waking up way too early in the morning, you’re not alone! This is one of the most common reasons parents call me for help. If you’re living with an early riser, I have three questions for you. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, it’s time to make some changes in order to get some extra zzz’s in the morning hours.

First of all, is your child’s room letting in sunlight? During the summer months, especially, this should be the first thing to check. Is there a spot where the blackout blinds are letting in bright cracks of morning sunshine? If so, fixing the curtains could instantly mean more sleep for your baby. Even a very small amount of natural sunlight can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep in the early morning hours. Since your baby can’t tell time yet, he will take his cues from the daylight. Seeing the sun during a transition between sleep cycles will signal his body that it’s time to wake up. The next time your baby wakes too early, have a look around the room to make sure there isn’t any sunlight peeking through.

Second, are you feeding your baby when he wakes this early? Depending on the age and health of your child, he may not need to eat right now. By approximately six months of age, your baby should capable of making it through the night without a feed. Of course, this is a very general guideline, so make sure you chat with your child’s doctor if you have any question about whether or not he should be eating during the night. If he is not truly hungry, but simply begins to expect this feed, it’s very likely he will have trouble going back to sleep without it. Offering a feed may seem like it’s buying you a few extra hours of sleep in the morning (assuming he goes back to sleep), but it may also reinforce this as his new wake time. It may cause him to wake fully and become more alert during a time when his body should still be asleep.

Third, is he having a very early morning nap? If your baby is waking early, chances are good that he’ll be ready for a nap almost as soon as he’s out of his crib in the morning. Of course, when this happens, it throws the schedule off for the entire day. It becomes a cycle of waking too early, napping too early then either needing an extra nap and fighting sleep at bed time, or being cranky and fussy all afternoon waiting for dinner, bath and bed. It becomes a cycle that you really don’t want to get stuck in.

Think of it this way: If you woke up at 4 am, went to have a snack in the kitchen, maybe read a book for 15 minutes then went back to bed until 7, you wouldn’t consider 4 am to be the time you got up for the day, you’d say you got up at 7. It’s the same with this early wake and early nap. The early nap simply becomes an extension of his night time sleep. This can build up quite a sleep debt for your child, making it even more likely that he’ll wake early again the next day.

Even though it will be tough for a few days, I encourage you to stick it out until his normal morning nap time before putting him down, even if he’s been awake since 4:30. Consistency is very important when it comes to sleep. If he’s been awake longer than usual for the morning because of an early wake, he’ll be fussy and tired, but after that first nap, things will be back on track. Take him outside for some fresh air if you can, or keep him occupied with a new toy or game if he’s having a hard time. The rest of the day should play out as normal. And, as long as you handle those early morning wake ups appropriately, his body will take over and he’ll start making up that lost sleep in the morning.

Another mistake that parents often make regarding early wake ups is to move the bed time. It’s never a good idea to keep your baby awake past his bed time. This can actually make the problem worse! When a child becomes overtired at bed time, he is actually more likely to wake during the night and too early the next morning.

As always, I’m here if you need help with this or any other aspect of your baby or toddler’s sleep. Give me a call at 250-552-5080 for a free 15 minute consultation.

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Dani Summer

Certified Sleep Sense Consultant

Cloud 9 Sleep Consulting

dani@cloud9sleep.net

250-552-5080

Certified Sleep Sense Consultant