Early morning wakings can be a frustrating and exhausting experience for parents. If your child consistently wakes up before the sun rises, it can disrupt the entire family’s sleep schedule. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your child sleep longer and improve everyone’s quality of sleep.
Anything earlier than 6 am are considered to be “early morning wakings.” Babies naturally wake up between 6 am and 7:30 am. So even though 6 am isn’t ideal, we wouldn’t consider it a true early morning waking.
Before you can effectively address your child’s early morning wakings, it’s important to understand why they are happening in the first place. Some common reasons for early morning wakings are: nap schedule, environment, starting the day before 6 am, or overtiredness or under tiredness at bedtime. By identifying the root cause, you can develop a targeted plan to address the issue and improve your child’s sleep habits.
One of the most effective ways to stop early morning wakings is to adjust your child’s bedtime. If your child is going to bed too late, they may be waking up early because they are not getting enough sleep. When a child is overtired, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released, which results in your baby’s body fighting against sleep.
Perhaps the wake window before bedtime was too long the night prior. Or, they could be stuck in a cycle of overtiredness, which has led to a cycle of early morning wakings.
On the other hand, if your child is going to bed too early, they may they have had enough sleep. Experiment with different bedtimes to find the sweet spot that allows your child to get the recommended amount of sleep for their age.
Early morning wakings can also be caused by being undertired. This can result from too short of a wake window before bed or too much daytime sleep. Their body simply doesn’t need any more sleep. If your child wakes up happy and ready to go at 5am, too much daytime sleep might be the culprit.
If too much light is entering the room in the early morning hours, your child will likely wake up as it becomes brighter. Creating a dark sleep environment can also help prevent early morning wakings. Use blackout curtains or shades to block out any light that may be coming in from outside. Blackout curtains are especially important in the warmer months as the sun comes up earlier.
To make sure your child’s room is dark enough, do the hand test. During the day, close all of the shades and doors, and turn off the lights. Plac your hand about 12 inches from your face. If you’re able to see your hand, then it’s likely still too bright.
In addtion, make sure the room is cool and comfortable, as being too hot or too cold can also disrupt sleep. By creating a dark and comfortable sleep environment, you can help your child sleep better and prevent early morning wakings.
Even though your child is awake at 5 am, doesn’t mean you should get them up for the day at that time. In fact, this perpetuates the cycle of early morning wakings.
If your child wakes early, you have a few options. If you have sleep trained previously, use that same method as you would for any night wakings.
If you want to go into their room to comfort them, keep a few things in mind.
One of the most important factors in preventing early morning wakings is ensuring that your child is getting enough sleep overall. This means following an age-appropriate nap schedule.]
Early morning wakings are one of the signs that your child may be ready to drop a nap. If your child is around the age when a nap transition commonly occurs, consider this may be why they’re waking early. Be sure to rule out all other reasons before you come to this conclusion.
If your child is struggling with more than just early morning wakings, it might be time to get professional guidance on how to get their sleep on track. Our baby and toddler sleep programs help address the cause of your little one’s sleep challenges so that your family can get the sleep you need in as little as one week.
Not sure if you need more support? Book a free sleep evaluation to see if our sleep programs would be a good fit for your family!