Early Morning Wake-Ups- Why They Happen and How to Fix'em

Anyone else part of the Early Morning Wake-Up Club this morning? 😩😭 When you have 2 kids under 3, you know you won't be sleeping in anytime in the next decade, but do you have to live with pre-6am wake-ups every morning for the forseable future? The answer is no- HECK NO! (Can I get an Amen! 😂) Here's some quick info on early morning wake-ups and what you can do about it. 

* Early morning wake-ups are most often caused by a too-late bedtime or insufficient naps. Parents are busy and often cannot get their kids to bed at a decent time, or baby may not be sleeping well during the day. Either of these can set your little one up for an early morning wake-up. Why don't they just sleep more when they're tired? Because when a babe is overtired, their body creates stress hormones that actually cause them to fight sleep, making it really hard to get back to sleep in that early morning hour, when they're naturally in a light sleep.
* Light, food, and social interaction reinforce this wake-up. Our circadian rhythm is set by these 3 things, so if your babe is experiencing any of these- a little light peeping through the curtains, an early morning feed, or cuddles because you're bringing them into bed with you to try to get some extra zzz's- then this early wake-up is getting more and more solidified as a habit ingrained in their biological rhythm.
* If babe doesn't know how to get back to sleep independently, he/she likely won't be going back to sleep. If your baby or toddler has never learned to connect their sleep cycles independently, then they won't be able to do it at this early morning sleep-cycle change any better than they do at bedtime or the rest of the night. 

So, what can you do about it? 

Make sure daytime naps are sufficient and bedtime is not too late. For babies under 1, an early-enough bedtime is as early as 5:30-6:30pm, depending on how the day's naps went. For toddlers, it should definitely be before 8pm.

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* Keep it dark. I literally mean pitch black. Use blackout curtains and duct tape them to the wall, if you have to! Turn off hallway lights, and no nightlight needed for babies. A small nightlight on the red light spectrum is ok for toddlers, but blue light will block their melatonin production, so definitely avoid those! 

* Keep interaction to an absolute minimum. I know those early-morning cuddles are great, but not so much if everyone is missing out on that last hour of night sleep that your bodies (babies AND parents) really need.  Get your cuddles at other times of the day.

* Don't perpetuate a habitual feed that's not needed. Some parents throw a bottle into the crib at 5am to get that extra hour of sleep, or moms keep nursing at 5:30 so babe will then sleep until 7am. Eating at this time will usually throw off the start to the day and perpetuate the early morning wake-up. 
* Make sure your child knows how to fall asleep independently so he/she can connect sleep cycles. This is where formal sleep training comes in. We specialize in a broad range of methods so that we can find the perfect fit for you and your family. But, often following our personalized plan that takes into account all of the above points plus dozens more, allows you to achieve a later wake-up without formal training. How sweet is that??

*Use an OK to Wake! Clock. These are amazingly helpful tools to use with toddlers over the age of ~2 years old, though some may be ready a little earlier than that. But, it is just a TOOL- it won't magically train your toddler to stay in bed until a reasonable time all by itself- you need to use it as part of your total sleep training plan, or it will not work. In Little Lamb Shepherd My Toddler sleep plans, I go over this in detail to make using an OK to Wake clock a total success. You will feel AMAZING once you're sleeping in until 7am again! (Would your pre-kid-self believe you just said that??) The OK to Wake! clock pictured is the one I personally use for my toddler. I like that it is battery powered so that it can be placed anywhere in the room, including out of reach. :)

Make an awesome plan to turn early mornings into SLEEP time instead of screen time

* Absolutely no early-morning screen time! I know parents are going to hate me for this, but it needs to be said. :)  Not only is any amount of screen time potentially harmful to their little developing brains, this habit more than any other perpetuates the early wake up, and will likely even encourage your child to wake earlier and earlier. It can be a very hard habit to break, so don't even start it. But, if you have started, come up with an awesome plan to change early morning back into SLEEP TIME instead of screen time! Need help with a plan that will really work? Schedule your free consultation today.

How early were your kids up this morning?

Lindsey McGonegalComment