"I am not an early bird or a night owl, I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon".
Early rising is sooooo exhausting for everyone. When you are regularly starting your day at 5/5:30am in the morning it makes a long day for both you and your little one. Here I cover some tips to help knock early rising on the head.
What is early rising?
Early rising is considered any wake up time before 6am. That's right, I am not going to tell you that your child should be sleeping until 7am because let's face it, many children don't and that is okay. My own children wake for the day at approx 6:15am. Between 6-7am gets the thumbs up from me.
Reasons that can cause early rising in children?
Going to bed overtired - Stretched or late bedtimes don't lead to later sleep ins. When a child is overtired they get a cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline rush. Having these stress hormones running through their little bodies makes it harder to have a full nights sleep and this includes the ability to be able to sleep all night long and through the early morning hours. Don't feel that you need to keep your little one up to 7pm, if they are tired earlier then put them to bed earlier.
Insufficient day sleep - Napping inadequately during the day can lead to night sleep challenges including early rising. It is important that your little one is napping in line with their sleep needs (having the right amount of naps, within appropriate awake windows and taking restorative naps).
Light - Unless you have blackout blinds then yes the sun poking through the window can wake up your little one. When our body is exposed to light it signals the brain that it is time to be awake. Keep rooms completely dark.
Being cold - It might be warm when your baby goes to bed but once 4/5am rolls around your little one can get cold if they are not dressed appropriately for the coldest part of the night. Toddlers are not very good at keeping blankets on so I recommend keeping your little one in a seasonally appropriate sleeping bag for as long as possible.
Noise - Cars, birds, dogs, alarms etc. are all things that can wake us up in the early morning when our sleep pressure is at its lowest. If your little is being woken to external sounds then I recommend using safe volumes of white noise to filter out those sounds.
Encouraging early rising - If your little one is encouraged to wake up and start the day early then it is likely that they will keep waking up early. Encouraging and promoting the early rise isn't done intentionally, it is as simple as us just getting our children up to start the day. I always recommend that my clients picture early rising as being a night waking. What would you do if your little one woke at 2am? Think of 5am as the same and treat it the same as a night wake up? Encourage your child to go back to sleep and to remain in their sleep space until at least 6am. They might need your support to do this.
Long stretches of awake time between last nap and bedtime - Age appropriate awake lengths are still applicable between the last nap and bedtime. While some children are able to tolerate a slightly longer awake length in their last awake window before bedtime, many can't. Adjusting nap schedules to reduce long stretches of awake time in the afternoon can be necessary to avoid going to bed overtired. Bring bedtime forward as necessary.
Nap 1 falling too early in the day - Your little one wakes for the day early so naturally they will be tired earlier and ready to go back to bed at the time you really want them to wake up and start their day. Unfortunately, by having nap 1 too early in the day, it actually encourages early rising to cycle back through. It's really important to follow age appropriate awake times but in the case of early rising there is an exception to the rule. Start timing your awake time from 6am (the earliest time that you want your little one to wake up) and schedule nap 1 based on this. You may need to extend the awake time before nap 1 gradually, depending on the age of your bub.
Having too much day sleep - some children would sleep all day if you let them but this can cause complications with night sleep. It's good to know how much sleep your little one needs across 24 hours so that you can distribute day and night sleep appropriately.
I hope you find these early rising tips helpful. Resolving early rising won't happen over a couple of days but if you persist with the steps suggested above it should resolve after a week or two. If you need any further support please just reach out. Refer to my blog page for other blogs on sleep needs and awake windows by age. There is heaps of info on this page.