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 overtiredness 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 eliminate those early starts to the day.
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.
2. Too short of a first wake time. This is a tricky one because many children get stuck in a "early naptime" 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 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.
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!
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!
Total Sleep Needs By Age
If schedule or overtiredness 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.
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 to eliminate those associations.
Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant 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.
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