Q&A with Elizabeth: Early Risers and Getting a Baby Tired

Posted by in No-Cry Sleep

My friend suggested keeping my baby up later at night so he’ll be really tired and go to sleep easier. Is that a good idea? ~ Cynthia, mom to 10-month-old Bryan

Noah 14 months

Noah 14 months

Many people come up with this idea, hoping that if baby is “really tired” he will sleep better. The problem is that this often backfires — because Baby becomes over-tired. Keep doing this and he could become chronically sleep-deprived.

Pushing a baby past his “tired” point and delaying bedtime by even 30 minutes can be destructive to sleep patterns. It can also cause a bedtime battle with a cranky overtired child, and sadly, can cause even more night wakings. So a too-late bedtime is often followed by disruptive sleep.

Most babies & young children have a biological clock that is pre-set for an early bedtime: around 6-8 PM. When parents work with their child’s preferred time, a child falls asleep more easily and stays asleep. It is helpful if you set a bedtime based on your child’s biological clock, and then plan for it by beginning your pre-bed routine an hour before.

Need more tips? The No-Cry Sleep Solution has more gentle tips to help your little one sleep.

Every day my daughter wakes up early – usually before 6:00. Is there any way to get her to sleep longer? ~ Hector, dad to 4-year-ld Rebecca

Madelyn 21 months

Madelyn 21 months

Very often an early waking child is doing so out of habit, and it may take a few weeks of consistent changes before you see a new wake-up time emerge. But with a persistent new routine you should be able to get your early bird to sleep a little longer. Try some of these tips:

    • Re-set your child’s biological clock by keeping the house dimly lit in the hour before bedtime, keep sleeping time dark, and have breakfast in a brightly lit room.
    • 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.
    • Schedule playtime in the afternoon or early evening outside when you can. When you can’t get outside keep the play area brightly lit. This mid-afternoon bought of brightly-lit activity time helps set her biological clock.
    • 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.
    • 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.

Need more tips? The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers has more gentle ways to improve your child’s sleep.

What is your question? Please ask it here – and watch for it to be answered in this column.




  1. Unless you live in Queensland where the sun comes up at 4.30am in Summer.

    • And the birds are noisy at that time too.

      • Ha! Birds, cars, dogs barking…. Try using some white noise to mask those outside noises that can wake your child.

    • That’s when blinds, drapes or even a piece of cardboard over the window comes in very useful!

  2. as always brilliant atcheivable advice….thank you so much

    • Awwww. Thank you Sophie – glad you find it helpful.

  3. How do you do the opposite? My 5 month old goes to bed at midnight (if she falls asleep earlier, she wakes up an hour to an hour and a half later as if it were a nap, then wants to be up for a few hours before bed)!

    She wakes up at 9 for a feeding and then goes right back to sleep until noon. I’ve tried keeping the house dark at night and bright in the morning, cutting down her daytime naps (i hate doing that!) and pushing up her bedtime routing a little each week. Nothing works! Help!

    • Unless her sleep routine matches yours this sounds like it can be disruptive and difficult. If you want to modify this the best way is to pick exact times for meals, naps and bedtime. Watch both the clock AND her sleepy signals, but try to move her to your desired times. Also set times for physical activity. Make sure you balance time in a chair, swing and sling with a good amount of floor time for “exercise.” Keep the dark/light routine and add some soft white noise to bedtime and naptime. It make take a few weeks but you should see a new schedule emerge.

      • After reading your book and your post above, I took your advice and it has been working! At six months, she is now sleeping from 7:30 to 8 without waking up. You saved me from going totally insane. Thank you so much!

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