Remember the days when waking up early meant 7:00? That definitely changes with kids... 7:00 is sleeping in, and 8:00 a blessing!
What parents don't realize is that a baby who wakes up at 6:00 a.m. or after is considered normal (given that he has slept well at night and woke up rested and happy). The amount of sleep your child requires, differs per age. What shouldn't change is the fact that day starts at 6:00 a.m. or later; not before!
If your child wakes up before 6:00 a.m. and won't go back to sleep, you will and should work on it, as it's not only a behavioral aspect but also an adjustment of their circadian rhythm.
Causes of Early Rising:
1. Bedtime is too late: This is the most common cause of early rising. Often parents think that if they put their kids to bed later, they will wake up later. This is actually not true for kids under the age of 7. Late bedtime means you have put them to sleep in an overtired state which won't allow for a restful sleep and will cause early rising.
2. Not enough day sleep: In order for your baby to sleep better and longer at night, he will need to get in good naps during the day.
3. Large wakeful window: Your child shouldn't be awake for more than a certain amount of hours (depending on age, requirements differ). Keeping them up longer will only cause them to be overtired.
4. Going to bed too drowsy: Some parents will often do a little too much at bedtime such as: rocking, holding, or even feeding their child until they are to the point of falling asleep, or too drowsy. Doing “too much” at the onset of sleep will only make it harder for your little one to learn how to put themselves back to sleep in those early morning hours.
5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is a medical condition that is usually caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Some common symptoms that your child may have OSA is: restless sleeping, sweating, loud snoring, mouth breathing, and even frequent ear infections. Because this is a medical condition that affects your child’s breathing at night and throughout the early hours, you should follow up with a pediatrician or pediatric ENT.
Adjusting Early Rising:
1. Sleep Space: Determine if the sleep environment is conducive to sleep. Check if the curtains keep the room dark and that no sunlight is coming through. Do you have a white noise machine that can perhaps keep out the outside noise?
2. Hunger: If your early riser is 6 months or younger, you may want to determine if it’s a hunger issue. Is your child getting enough feeds during the day? Does your baby perhaps need an extra feed to carry him over those last few hours?
3. Coach back to sleep: If your child awakes before 6:00 a.m. you must treat it as it’s the middle of the night, and try to get him to go back to sleep. Quickly respond to your child and tell him it’s time to go back to sleep. Make sure you respond consistently as you do at bedtime.
4. Keep your child in bed: Try your best not to take your child out of his crib until 6:00 a.m.
5. Dramatic wake up: When you do take your child out of his crib, make sure to do what’s called a “dramatic wake up” to split the coaching to sleep, and him out of the crib. Go back in, turn on lights, and take him out to the living room common area space. Make him believe he is starting his day because you believe it’s time, not because he cried enough to get it.
6. Hold off on feeds right away: Try not to immediately feed him. If possible wait a little before doing so.
7. Morning nap not too early: If your child is still taking a morning nap, make sure you wait until 8:00 a.m. or later to put him down.
Early rising is very common with children, but unfortunately it’s the longest sleep “issue” to correct. It can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks or even months in the older kids. Make sure to follow these suggestions, respond consistently, and give it some time. This too shall pass….