Got an early riser?

Welcome to some looooong days! Parenting is tiring enough, but when you’re faced with a child who is an early riser your days become even more exhausting.

There are several common reasons for early morning waking.

In this blog post I am going to give you some hints and tips to help your little one sleep for longer in the morning. But first, what is considered “early waking”?

Is your baby an early riser?

What is considered to be an appropriate time to begin the day will vary from family to family. But, in general, if your baby wakes at, say, 6.00am, happy and refreshed and is able to cope well with their morning, then for your baby this is developmentally appropriate. If, however, your child wakes anywhere between, say, 5.00 – 6.00am and often seems tired and grumpy, then I would say that you have and early rising issue on your hands.

Early morning waking can become an ingrained habit, so if your child is beginning to do this it’s a good idea to get on top of it quickly. Let’s look at the common reasons for early morning waking, and, what you can do about it. Most families want their baby to sleep until the much more respectable time of 6.30- 7.00am. So, how do you achieve this?

4 common reasons for early morning waking.

1. Environmental Stimulants

The first thing we have to take into consideration is the body’s circadian rhythm. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, peaks at midnight and gradually declines from that time onwards. What’s more, the hormone cortisol is beginning to rise as we progress towards morning. Our bodies are biologically primed to be waking up at this stage.

With this in mind, we have to do everything we can to not stimulate our babies further and cause early morning waking. Often having a good look at the environmental factors in our household is a good place to start. Food, light, and social interaction are often the culprits.

If your child’s room is too light, or you are regularly feeding them at 5.30 am, or someone in the household is getting up then and making noise at that time, then this will literally train your baby to wake regularly at that time. So, be aware of what could be stimulating your baby’s body clock to wake for the day, and then reduce or eliminate that stimulation.

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2. Duration of daytime naps

It is important to ensure that your baby is napping well during the day. Nap deprivation leads very quickly to an overtired baby or toddler. It may be that the naps are too short, or the overall amount of restorative day sleep is simply not enough. This can be common around nap transition times. When babies and toddlers go from two naps to one, and one nap to none, the changes in the amount of day sleep they are getting can cause sleep deprivation and a host of issues due to overtiredness.

And overtired babies wake frequently during the night and often very early in the morning. Ensuring that your child is taking good age appropriate naps is an important step to combating the early wake ups.

3. The timing of first nap

The timing of the first nap plays a big role in how they sleep at night. Some babies think that the morning nap is just a continuation of night-time sleep. They wake early, are very unsettled, are often fed, then put back early for their ‘first nap’. This can occur very early and your baby will just think it is an extension of their night-time sleep.

It’s important that the first nap doesn’t happen before 8.30 – 9.00am. Depending on your baby’s age, the first nap length often needs to be shortened too. The biggest restorative nap in the day needs to occur at lunchtime, not in the morning. If the biggest restorative sleep happens in the morning, then your baby will simply not be tired enough to have a good sleep at lunchtime. This in turn has the knock-on effect of your baby going to bed overtired and then waking up early.

If you make the shift to having the big restorative nap in the middle of the day (from 12.30 onwards say) then their day is balanced. They go to bed not overtired and are more likely to sleep in longer.

Also, a body’s circadian rhythm is very easily set with repetition and if your baby’s brain knows that a big restorative sleep is coming in the morning then their brain will ‘learn’ to easily cope without sleep from 5-7am.

Babies on one sleep a day definitely need their sleep to happen in the middle of the day, not anytime in the morning, as you are continuing to train their circadian rhythm that being awake between 5-7am is absolutely fine because a big restorative sleep is coming in the morning. Shifting nap timings helps enormously with early morning waking.

4. Establish an early bedtime.

Finally, and this is one I talk about all the time, establish an early bedtime. It’s very easy with our busy lives to find ourselves starting our child’s winddown routine later and later. The reasons are many. Maybe one parent gets home later and wants to spend time with the baby, or you’re busy with other children. Let’s face it, just getting the kids fed and bathed each night can be a monumental mission.

It’s very easy in all of this for your baby’s bedtime to push out later and later and for no one to pick up on it. Over a week this can all add up to hours of sleep deprivation. Over several weeks those hours of sleep deprivation and the accumulated sleep debt very often result in an overtired baby. Remember sleep begets sleep. Overtired babies become early morning wakers!

Is your baby an early morning waker? If you’re struggling with this problem, please book a 15-min free consultation. Or share your experience below (in the comment section) and I will respond.

Be sure to follow After the Stork on Instagram and Facebook for sleep tips and support.

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We all love and need our sleep. And when we have a baby that’s not sleeping well, we will do almost anything to help. 

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