If I wanted a 5am wakeup call every morning, I'd buy an alarm clock.
Does this sound like your reality? Your baby, your toddler, or BOTH children up at the crack of dawn, either bouncing off your bed or screaming over the monitor to be picked up out of the crib...EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. Between 6-8am is an age-appropriate wake time for children, but what about those that wake before 6am ready for the day? Defined as "Early Rising", these morning larks continuously rise with the sun, regardless of their bedtime. When my daughter was an Infant, I was greeted DAILY with a 5:30am wakeup, regardless of what time she went to bed that night. I would think "Whhhhhyyyyyyy is she already awake?! I swear she went to bed later than normal!" I was so over it, but wasn't sure exactly what was causing it!
TOP Reasons your Babe Might be Waking Up too Early for the Day
1. It's BRIGHT. You need a nearly pitch-black room at 5am still when the summer sun starts to rise. Wood blinds and/or blackout shades often aren't enough, so I suggest window covers to achieve this (see example on my website under Sleep Must Haves.) In my daughter's case, the MINUTE I put up this shade, she began sleeping in until 7am. Guess that morning light was her signal that it was time to wake up, due to the fact she wasn't yet old enough to understand a clock!
2. The last "Wake window" of your child's day is too long. For napping toddlers, this is 6 hours or less; any longer is a recipe for meltdowns. For help with schedules ages 0-4, download the Sleep and Feeding Schedules Guide; it'll save your life.
3. Bedtime is TOO EARLY or TOO LATE. This goes for all children, napping or not. A bedtime before 7pm could cause even the best sleeper to be up for the day at 5am depending on nap lengths. On the flip side, pushing back their bedtime in hopes that "they might sleep in" often backfires or results in night wakings, and children will typically continue to wake before 6am regardless.
Ok, check. But now how do I fix it? Ready for Baby to begin sleeping in? Here are my TOP TIPS TO SHIFT "EARLY RISERS":
Tip #1: Create & maintain a sleep log. Why is this important? In order to understand how many hours your child needs to sleep in a 24-hour period, you're going to need to calculate that average over 3-4 weekdays (weekends are usually so busy that it can be difficult to gauge an average). Depending on your child's age, they need anywhere from 10 to 18 hours of sleep per day, so it's important to know where they fall in that range.
Tip #2: Invest in some blackout shades and white noise. These are two of the TOP ITEMS I suggest to all my clients. Black outs block out unwanted light which can accidentally signal the body's internal clock that it's "daytime", and white noise blocks out unsolicited noise (garbage trucks, Dad leaving for work, the dog barking, me tripping over the baby gate while I'm sneaking downstairs for coffee). This custom black out shade is under $50 and can easily be taken off during the day, and it's much easier than tin foiling up that window. The white noise we are currently using here in our home is from Hatch, called The Rest, which is a 3-in-1 machine that not only creates the perfect white noise, but doubles as a night light and Ok-to-Wake clock which is vital for healthy toddler sleep habits.
Tip #3: Create or tweak your schedule. Missing naps, short naps, bedtimes too late, bedtimes too early, or having unrealistic expectations ALL cause early wakings. If your 2-year old is going to bed at 6pm (this age group sleeps 10-12 hours on average at night) and is waking at 5am- that's 11 hours i.e pretty textbook!! If this is you, your bedtime needs to move back. When it comes to missing sleep (vacation, overstimulation, poor napping), an overtired child has a harder time going to sleep AND staying asleep, and thus this causes early rising.
Tip #4: Ready & Get Set. Now you understand Little Jack needs 11 hours of sleep per night and you understand what the best time for bed is (if he sleeps 11 hours and you want him up at 7am, then 8pm is your new bedtime), you have your tin foiled window & radio all set, and you've figured out an age-appropriate schedule (don't have a schedule? Grab a Custom Schedule here for your baby or toddler to begin using today!), I want you to START USING THEM for at least a full week. Yes, a full week. I never said this was going to be easy, but you have to make the changes before you want perfection. Child sleep is rarely a "sprint", always a marathon.
Tip #5: AND GO! Using the example child above, you will now not allow baby to get up for the day for at least 10-11 hours after bedtime. This means you'll start treating that 5am wakeup call like a night waking. This can either be a brief visit in the dark, laying on the floor in the dark room with your child pretending to sleep (BORING is key if you choose to interact) or you can watch over the monitor. Do NOT get them up for the day, whatever you do. THIS WILL TAKE A WEEK or so, just like a time change, it takes TIME to shift a little one's internal rhythm.
Is all of this information blowing your Mommy mind?
My business is JUDGEMENT FREE, so please let me know if I can help you sort through this via the Mini Consultation. Drop me an email, or Contact Us here for more information about how we can work together and create a bedtime, sleep-inducing room, schedule & shifting program for your little!