Babies wake up early for many reasons. Keep reading to find out the top 5 reasons why your child is waking up at 5am or 6am or even earlier!
Have you been awake with the sun as long as you can remember? It must be frustrating.. and exhausting! Early morning wake ups are considered any time before 6AM or less than 11 hours total sleep at night. Early wake ups are a sign that your child is not getting enough sleep (yes, you heard me right)
Chronic over-tiredness hinders the body from achieving long, restorative sleep and only repeats the cycle unless something is done about it.
Here are a few things to consider when trying to help your child sleep later in the morning & the reasons why your child wakes up early.
1. Last wake time is too long. This means bedtime happened too late and you missed your child's sleep window. Chances are they are going down fussy and crying at the end of the day.
Last wake window sweet spots! <2 months avoid 2 hours hours last wake window. <3 months avoid 2.5 hours last wake window. <4 months old avoid 3 hours last wake window. <7 months old avoid 4 hours last wake window.
2. Too short of a first wake time. This is a tricky one because many children get stuck in a "early nap time" due to the 5AM wakeup, but in reality, this is what could be causing the wakeup. Depending on their age, they need a set amount of dedicated wakeful hours before the next sleep onset. By stretching that morning nap later, and also by practicing the crib rule in the morning, you will be able to welcome a later sleep in. This means delaying exposing your child to sunlight until closer to your desired out of crib time. Then you will base their first nap off the out of crib time.
3. Nap transitions. Your child may be on the verge of having one too many naps. Early wake ups are common during 3-2 and 2-1 transitions. Let an expert like me walk you through the transition... because, let's be honest, transitions are HARD! Need help with a nap transition? You'll want to read this!
4. Your child is maxing out on sleep at 5AM. That means their sleep tanks are full at this time, so it's important to look at overall sleep in a 24 hour period. It may mean its time to cap their nap(s) or push bedtime forward just a smidge! It's not uncommon to see too much daytime sleep happening!
Total Sleep Needs By Age
If schedule or over-tiredness doesn't seem to be the culprit look for other things that could be causing the wakeup. Birds outside the window..or light coming in. Make sure you are using a sound machine and have completely blocked the light from the windows. Ruling out these environmental factors can encourage sleep during the early morning hours when melatonin is lowest. It could also be that your child is in a short-term disrupted sleep phase. These are super common despite all the things being perfect. This was one of the hardest things to navigate as a sleep consultant who also has kids, not robots lol.
Toddlers & preschoolers
These ages are notorious for early morning wakes. It's usually two-fold. Heavy daytime sleep paired with instant gratification to fuel the early morning; thinks like, food, milk, screen time or parent's bed. Using a toddler clock or color clock like the Hatch, can be integral to your big kid's success. Practice waiting short increments (10-15 minutes at first), then slowly adding more time paired with a TON of praise and quality time together during the day.
And lastly, look at what habits are formed. Is your child waking for a bottle or cup or milk that they always receive as soon as they wake up?
Delay any instant gratification for at least 15 minutes FROM YOUR DESIRED WAKE TIME to eliminate those associations.
Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant with Tweet Dreamzz who is passionate about sleep. Lindsay has helped many families restore sleep balance in their home after a birth of a child. She is a Mama to twin girls and resides in the Midwest with her family.
Join Lindsay's online community