Who wants to get up before the sun?! Ugh, not many people that I know of. In fact, it is better if your child is not awake at that time. Often, children who consistently wake up before 6 am are doing so due to unhealthy reasons. What most people don’t know is that that hour of the morning does not need to be seen if a few simple steps are taken to keep your child from waking during that ungodly hour. Here they are:
1. Early to bed, LATER to rise is what I like to say. Too late a bedtime is the number ONE reason we see early rising from our children. If you say, well, my kids have a REASONABLE bedtime and you are seeing early rising, I would suggest you take a closer look at your children’s bedtime. If your child is consistently waking up before 6 am, there may be a “hump” of tiredness that he is having trouble getting over, this may be resolved by putting him to bed earlier. 7:00-7:30 pm bedtime works well for most children.
2. Staying awake too long between naps/night-sleep is the second most common reason for early rising. This time frame varies between ages of children but on average, I find the following to be true:
6months should not be awake longer than 2.25 hours
9months should not be awake longer than 3hours
12months should not be awake longer than 4hours
18months should not be awake longer than 4.5hours
24months should not be awake longer than 5hours
3. Daytime sleep directly affects nighttime sleep. Are your children only having short naps during the day? This may be the reason you are seeing your child wide awake at the 5 am hour. Check out my sleep averages infographic and compare the averages to your child’s sleep average. If your child falls under the average, you will want to work towards filling your child’s “sleep tank” even more during the day.
4. Lastly, if your child has the ability to put himself to sleep and all of the above is ruled out, you may be seeing early rising if your child is too drowsy when put to bed. If your child is sleep trained, it is important that you teach your child to fall asleep from a more awake state. Otherwise, if you are doing most of the “work” of putting them to sleep, he will not know how to do it when he wakes up at 5 am after around 9-10 hours of sleep (enough sleep to feel okay for a while, but not enough sleep to be restorative over time…). If your child does not know how to put himself to sleep, do whatever you do to put him to sleep to put him BACK to sleep (e.g., nursing, rocking, bouncing). Make sure the room you are in is nice and dark as to not “kill” the melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel drowsy) until at least 6 am. Keeping your child in a darker room will help set his circadian rhythm to an appropriate wake-up time. This also applies to allowing your child to use electronic devices early in the morning; electronic devices are great at “killing” melatonin. Wait for at least an hour after wake-up time before introducing electronic devices to your child in the morning (this includes television).
6. Could my child be hungry?? If your child is under 6months old, I would encourage you to go in and feed him/her if your child seems to be hungry at any time of the night or morning where he/she is showing signs of hunger. Children under 6months old are growing and developing at incredible rates which means hunger is a very good reason to wake up. But please make sure to keep the feeding very “business-like” and put your child back to sleep after he/she is fed. If your child is older than 7months, hunger may still be a reason for waking up but it may be more of a “learned” hunger or he/she may have a strong association with feeding and sleeping. I advise that you ALWAYS check with your child’s health professional before attempting to eliminate nighttime feeds. After checking with your doctor and getting the okay to night wean, give me a call and it would be my pleasure to help you navigate the night weaning process.
5. Yay for spring forward! Ironically, this is a great time of year for you parents who deal with chronic early risers: if your child is well rested (for naps and night sleep) and your child STILL wakes up early, this is the time to get your child to sleep longer! Keep his/her schedule the same (this includes feeding schedule) and enjoy the extra hour of sleep you will be getting! For example: If your child wakes at 5am, naps at 12pm and goes to bed at 6pm, after the time change have your child nap at 1pm and go to bed at 7pm and he should sleep until 6pm!
7. Medical conditions are another reason for early rising. OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) is one of the most common medical causes of un-resolved early rising. Symptoms of OSA are: mouth breathing, snoring, restless sleep… If you have tried to resolve early rising with little to no results, I encourage you to ask your doctor to check your child for enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
8. If all else fails, give me a call! I am here to help you and it is my joy and passion to help sleep-deprived families. I offer a free 15min consultation where I can help point you in the right direction!