Early morning wakings are one of the toughest sleep problems to fix, if not the toughest. Why? Because after a decent night’s rest, your child has more energy to fight sleep in the morning. The truth is, we all enter lighter sleep phases in the last hour of our sleep, preparing to wake up for the day.

However, keep in mind that your child is only waking up early if they’re not getting the right amount of night rest for their age and body. In other words, if your child sleeps from 7 PM to 6 AM, that’s a perfectly reasonable schedule for them, even though it might feel early to you. We can’t ask our children to sleep more than 11 hours at night. Their bodies are usually rested after this amount of sleep and they won’t be able to sleep longer.

Also, consider this: if your child wakes up even after 10 and a half hours but is rested, energetic in the morning, and makes it easily until naptime, then they’re getting enough rest. Problems arise if your child sleeps from 7 PM to 5:30 AM. In this case, you’ll need to push the bedtime later by 15-minute increments and then watch to see if your child can sleep later in the morning.

A Word of Caution:

Making bedtime later can often have the opposite effect, causing your child to wake up even earlier. This is why changes need to be made in small steps.

Tips to Help Your Early Riser:

  1. Darken the Room: Ensure your child’s room is very dark. Use blackout curtains to block out any early morning light.
  2. Use White Noise: If there are sounds that could be waking them – such as garbage trucks, barking dogs, or sprinklers – use white noise in the room. Make the volume loud enough to mask these sounds.
  3. Remove Stimulating Toys: Remove all stimulating toys from your child’s crib or bed. These can be distracting once the sun enters the room.
  4. Limit Early Morning Check-ins: If you are checking in on your child within the last hour before their wake time, your interaction may prevent them from returning to sleep. Avoid checking on them if it’s less than an hour until their wake time.
  5. Adjust Bedtime: Make sure the bedtime is not too late for your child’s age. Adjust the bedtime earlier by 15-minute increments and observe what happens in the morning. This might allow your child to sleep later as they are less overtired at bedtime. If they wake up earlier, return to your previous bedtime. If moving the bedtime earlier has no effect on the wake time, you may want to consider maintaining the earlier bedtime to ensure they get the right amount of night sleep.
  6. Ensure They’re Not Hungry: Make sure your child is not hungry. If your child is under 12 months and you have recently started weaning feedings, you may want to slow the process to give them more time to adjust. Moreover, ensure that you are offering the breast or bottle more often during the day to help transition previous nighttime feeds to daytime. This way, they won’t be hungry at night.

By following these tips and making gradual adjustments, you can help your early bird develop better sleep habits and hopefully, allow everyone in the family to get a little more rest in the mornings.