Yikes! My Child Wakes Before the Sun! Tips for Parents with Early Risers
Is your baby waking before sunrise? Is your toddler in your room before 5am? Do 3 cups of coffee not even make a dent on mounting exhaustion? Early risings are a sleep disruption and are brutal for everyone in the family. I consider any waking before 6am too early. If the time starts with a 4 or a 5, it is still nighttime!
Good news! It is possible to help your early riser sleep longer! Be prepared to give it some time, as it will take practice for your child to make these changes. But stick with it.
Here are great ways to bring sleep back to these wee hours of the morning.
By 4-5 months, your baby’s sleep should match his biological needs. This is called the circadian rhythm and it controls the body’s sleep and wake cycles. An appropriate wake time for a child is between 6:00am-7:00am. This wake time sets your child up nicely for a nap based on biological needs. This means that any wake before 6:00am is considered too early. So, if your child is waking before 6:00am, it can be an indication that something is off with sleep.
There are a few different things that might be contributing to these early mornings:
- Sleep Schedule
- Parent involvement
- Light: Sunlight or lamps and overhead lights impact waking. The light tricks our brains into thinking that it is time to be awake. Early morning light will interfere with sleep and for sure lead to early waking. Darkness is the signal to our brain that it is is time to sleep. Make sure the room is super dark. Like really, really dark. Room darkening shades should be your best friend. (If you do not have them, you can even use a large trash bag, paper shades, or a towel attached to the window!)
- Noise: Using a white noise on low volume and positioned away from the crib creates an incredibly conducive space for sleeping. White noise can mask disruptive sounds that might stimulate the brain.
- Sleep that occurs at “off” times (meaning it doesn’t match the circadian rhythm) is not restorative sleep and can lead to an overtired child. Overtired children tend to wake super early and are cranky throughout the day.
- Make sure that bedtime is early. Going to bed early does not mean your child will wake early…it is quite the opposite. In fact, an early bedtime will help to extend your child’s morning sleep! They will be getting better quality sleep!
- If your child wakes early, try to give him some space in the morning to fall back to sleep or just rest in the crib. If you react right way, chances are your child will continue to wake early to see you!
- Bonus: If you add a toddler clock to your child’s room, it gives him a visual of when it is okay to wake!