Early Morning Wake Ups!

As a certified sleep consultant and a mother, I know firsthand, early morning wakes up can be frustrating at any age and a tough habit to break for some babies and toddlers.

The definition of early morning waking is when your baby wakes between 4:00 – 6:00 am. Waking after 6am is considered waking for the day and waking before 4 am is considered night time wake up. The preferred wake time for babies is 7am, however, depending on their age and your family dynamics 6am for some families, is acceptable.

We all have sleep drive, this is the feeling of being tired and ready for sleep. Sleep drive builds up during the day because our circadian rhythm is optimal for sleep and the conditions are perfect for your brain and body. This is when we need a break and are ready to sleep and the time of day our body expects to go to sleep.

A baby’s sleep drive is very low between 4:00 – 6:00 am. We all slightly wake up multiple times during these early morning hours and we have learnt to go back to sleep. This is a skill your baby has to learn and may need our help.

For adults, sleep is an essential part of overall health. Getting enough sleep offers many physical benefits, while NOT getting enough sleep can interfere with work, driving, your sense of wellbeing and it is well documented that can lead to increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression and effects on memory. If you are sleep deprived, it’s most likely your child is also sleep deprived and may be irritable, grumpy and struggling with settling for naps during the night or early morning wake ups.

Why does my baby or toddler wake up early?

Reasons your baby is waking early in the morning:

  • The most likely reason is being overtired – contrary to what most parents believe waking early can be a sign of not enough sleep.
  • The morning nap may be too long.
  • The morning nap is too early and can, in fact, cause and then reinforce an early wake up as your baby needs to
  • wake earlier to be ready to have a longer sleep.
  • The afternoon nap is too late, this can really interfere with bedtime.
  • Bed time too late – putting your child to bed later is not the answer to solving early wake ups.
  • Light entering the room as the sun comes up.
  • Social interaction – entering the room and engaging with your child.

As you can see there are a multitude of reasons why your baby or toddler is waking too early, so what can you do to solve this?

  • A long gentle predictable ritual transition to bedtime, or a wind down period is recommended and keep this consistent every night. This should be no less than 10 -15 minutes. Have the house quiet, no TV, perhaps soft relaxing music, read a book or sing songs. Create a gentle and calming environment.
  • Ensure their sleep schedule is age appropriate and at the correct times. Our circadian rhythms dictate the times of day that is best for babies to have their naps as their hormones and body temperature are at the optimum level for good sleeps so settling will be easier, there is reduced stress and crying, longer sleeps are more likely and your baby is will be happier.
  • These nap windows fall 9 – 10am, 12 -2pm and 6 – 7 pm.
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep overall.
  • Early bed time is essential.
  • Hold off on feeding before 7am.

Fortunately, for most babies and toddlers, this is a stage they go through and our children won’t sleep badly forever. If you feel like you have tried everything and nothing is working for you and you’re feeling sleep deprived and exhausted, reach out and ask for professional help. At Mother in touch baby sleep consultant we look at your individual child and develop a strategy to help all the family sleep well.

Wishing you all the luck towards getting your sleep back!