10 Hidden Reasons Your Child Keeps Waking Too Early
Let’s talk about early waking…
If you’re a parent, chances are your child has woken you up before 6:00 AM ready to start their day. If it doesn’t happen too often, you have an extra cup of coffee and move forward. But if it’s a common occurrence, all of that lost sleep can be tough on a family!
Unfortunately, fixing it isn’t always easy, as there are a lot of reasons your little one may be waking early.
Take a look at the most common causes of early waking; this will give you an idea of all the factors we consider when determining the best plan of action for each child:
Parent led sleep association - When a child needs help falling asleep at bedtime, they often need help falling back to sleep as well. However, it can be particularly difficult for children to fall back to sleep even with help in those early morning hours when they aren’t as tired. It often seems much more appealing to play with mom and dad, than it does to fall back to sleep in their arms.
Bedtime is too early - We see this when a child is only able to sleep for 11 hours a night and bedtime is at 6:00 PM, for example. In that case, we may need to shift the entire schedule later. However, it also happens when the last nap is too close to bedtime. It’s important that the wake windows are age appropriate. (Use our SweetSpot tool to determine the optimal times for sleep.)
Bedtime is too late - Going to bed in an overtired state is one of the most common reasons children wake too early the next morning. We often recommend earlier bedtimes to limit overtiredness and lengthen night sleep overall.
Too little day sleep - Likewise, poor napping can lead to overtiredness as well. Techniques to lengthen the naps (or adding another nap if appropriate) can help ensure that a child makes it to bed before they reach a state of overtiredness.
Too much day sleep - When children take too many naps for their age, or sleep too much during the day, this can lead to shortened night sleep and an early wake up call.
Hunger - Being hungry makes it hard to fall to back to sleep. We see this when dinner is too early or a child isn’t quite ready to make it through the night without eating.
Environment - We often encourage families to consider black out blinds and white noise if the rising sun and chirping birds make their children think it’s time to get up. Seeing light in the morning signals our internal clocks, so it’s important to keep lights off until the desired wake up time so we don’t reinforce early waking.
Genetics - We don’t see this one too often, but some children are just hard-wired to be early risers. In these cases, there’s usually a close relative with the same genetic tendencies to wake early.
Habit - Sometimes, families do everything “correct” and children still continue to wake at 5:00 AM, pop out of bed, stand over you and stare until you wake up. (Can you tell we’ve been there?) In those cases, we often need to set limits and provide positive reinforcement to stop those early morning visits.
Unrealistic expectations - While this isn’t really a “cause” of early waking, it’s something we consider when developing schedules for families. While many families would love a consistent 8:00 AM wake up call, it’s not always developmental appropriate for children to wake this late. Occasionally we need to adjust our expectations surrounding appropriate schedules based upon age.
We often say that solving early waking issues is akin to solving a puzzle. We need to make sure all of the pieces are in place, and address each cause in the right order to move the morning rise time later. The maddening thing for many parents is that there are so many causes, it can be tough to figure out what to adjust, and the wrong move can backfire and increase sleep issues.
Luckily, we have LOTS of experience determining the cause(s) and finding solutions for little roosters. After analyzing a child’s sleep patterns, we determine the best course of action, in the correct sequence. Our team is always happy to formulate a plan to help your family get more sleep!
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