Is Your Child Waking Up Too Early?

Posted by in No-Cry Sleep

If you don’t need an alarm clock because your child is an early bird, read on for tips and reclaim some morning shut-eye!

Some children are natural early birds, but only 10% to 15% actually have a biological tendency to be early risers. Many children wake up early because of reasons other than their biological alarm, and these can be changed. How do you know where your child fits on this scale? There are specific things to look for.




Signs that Your Little One is a Natural Early Riser

  • She wakes up early no matter what time she goes to bed.
  • She wakes up on her own and is cheerful and chatty.
  • She has the most energy in the late morning to early afternoon.
  • She sleeps well throughout the night.
  • She gets tired soon after dinner.
  • She goes to bed early and easily.

If this seems to describe your child, you might have a little lark on your hands. However, you might be able to encourage a little extra sleep time in the mornings by changing your child’s routines slightly, and we’ll cover those in a minute. If your child does not match the above description, then the following tips should definitely help your child sleep a little later in the mornings.


Common Reasons for Waking Up Early

  • Your child has had enough sleep.
  • Sources of light are interrupting their sleep – daylight, street lights, or house lights.
  • Some children are easily awoken by noises – voices, traffic outside, pets, neighbors, or sibligs.
  • Your child may need to use the bathroom early or be uncomfortable in a wet diaper.
  • Discomfort can create early waking. The heat kicked in, and he is too hot. Or his covers fell off, and he is too cold, or his feet are chilly.
  • Her sleep may be interrupted because she is truly hungry.
  • Early waking has turned into a habit, and your child’s internal alarm clock has been reset for this earlier time.
  • Naps may be interfering with sleep – they could be too early, too late, too often, or too long.




Gently Encourage Your Child to Sleep Longer

  • First, problem-solve any of the issues listed above. Cover windows, dampen noises, encourage potty independence, adjust temperature settings and dress properly, give your child a healthy snack before bed or set crackers on their bed stand, and experiment with naps.
  • Work on gradually resetting your child’s biological clock. You can do this by keeping the hour before bedtime dimly lit, sleeping time dark, and breakfast time bright.
  • Keep your child’s room dark during all the hours you want her to sleep. Use blinds, curtains, or even a blanket or big pieces of cardboard to keep out unwanted light. Do your pre-bedtime reading by the dimmest light possible, and finish it up with story-telling in the dark.
  • Schedule playtime in the afternoon or early evening outside when you can. When you can’t get outside keep the play area brightly lit. You may even want to invest in a natural sunlight lamp which emits a sun-like glow.
  • Try treating the early morning awakening as if it’s 2:00 A.M. and respond to your child as you do with a night waking. If the windows are covered and the room is dark your child may accept that it’s the middle of the night and not the morning.
  • Children who wake early often nap early, too, going for a nap within an hour or two of waking up. This is actually the end of their nighttime sleep! Try holding off the morning nap by 15 to 30 minutes every day until it falls an hour or two hours later in the day than it is now. After a week or two you should see a new pattern emerge.
  • Hold off breakfast for thirty minutes to an hour after your child wakes up. She may have set her “hunger alert” to go off at 6:00 A.M. By holding off breakfast in the morning you may be able to re-set the time she gets hungry. If she can’t wait that long, try a small snack, like a few crackers, and delay a full breakfast for a bit.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time seven days a week. Changing the schedule each weekend will likely prevent you from finding success at getting a reasonable wake up time during the week.




If Your Child is Still Waking too Early…

Give these ideas time to work before giving up on them. Stay consistent and see if you can gently encourage your child to improve their sleep patterns. However, you may find that your child is a natural early riser and you are certainly not. In those cases, here are a few more tips…

  • Every night, after your child goes to sleep put a box of toys next to her bed. Rotate these so that there’s always something new and interesting in the box. Tell her that when she wakes up she can check her box and play with whatever she finds in there. Be creative, but make sure the toys are safe, and of course, nothing noisy! (If your child is still sleeping in a crib you can leave a few child-safe toys at the foot of the crib.)
  • For an older child, set a clock-radio to a pleasant music station and have it turn on at your acceptable wake up time. Tell your child that she can’t leave her bedroom to wake you up until she hears the music.
  • Leave a sippy cup of water and a snack, such as crackers, on her bedside so that when she wakes up she will have something to eat. (No choking hazards, of course.)
  • Make a tape recording of your child’s favorite songs or stories and show her how to operate the machine. Let her listen to her special tape when she wakes up.
  • Invite her into your room or your bed. Tell her that if she wakes up she can come quietly into your room. Let her climb in bed and snuggle with you, or create a little resting area with a sleeping bag on the floor for her. You might even create a fort, such as using a blanket over a card table, and call it her morning nest. Put a few toys and books inside and see if she’ll play quietly for a while before waking you.
  • Childproof, childproof, childproof! Make sure that your entire house is safe for your early riser so if she’s wandering around while you’re still asleep she won’t get herself into trouble.


More strategies are included in The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers