Some of us are just born early risers and there is nothing wrong with that...unless it's at 4:30 or 5 in the morning! We want to make sure your little one is getting adequate sleep and to help them sleep in..just a little bit...longer in the morning to a more suitable hour. How can we do this?
Our sleep is physiologically different in the early morning, we begin to have more REM active sleep and light stages of slow-wave NREM sleep and less to hardly any deep sleep as we move closer to the time we need to wake up.* Being so, it seems easy to understand that after many hours of sleep, when light sleep prevails in the early morning, it is only normal that your little one has a harder time getting back to sleep. Especially if they require you or something else to help them fall asleep or they get to do something they love right when they do wake up!
Giving them what they want at 5 in the morning used to work but now 5 am has turned into 4:30 am!
Even though it is tough to get back to sleep, those early morning hours are also important for their growing minds! So how do we fix it? How do we get them to sleep just a little longer? Here are three things to try:
1 -Try for an Earlier Bedtime or Check Nap timings
If your little one is waking up early, one of the first things we think of is to put them in bed later so they will sleep longer. This is exactly what you do not want to do! If you haven't noticed already (you will if you try), no matter what, your little one will always wake up at the same time whether or not you put them in bed at 7:30 pm or 9:00 pm, that is just how their sleep works!
What is usually a red flag for me when parents mention their little one wakes up so early, is just how late they are putting them to bed. With little ones, the early you put them in bed the better (for 6-9 months 6:30-7:30 pm, 12 months -18 months 7-7:30 pm, 2.5 years+ 7:30-8 pm). They will be falling asleep through all stages of sleep and will do so in a relaxed state. Being overtired at bedtime can cause struggles getting to sleep, staying asleep, and even those early wake-ups!
Next on the list is being sure they are not too tired or not tired enough at bedtime. How do you do this? By making sure they are awake just the right amount of time between their last nap of the day and when they have to be in bed. Check out my blog on how much sleep your little one needs to get some ideas.
2- Make sure their sleep space is dark!
This is a quick fix! Head into your little one's sleep space in the day, close the blinds and the door, and let your eyes adjust for 10 minutes. Take a look around the room and see where the light is coming in from and do everything you can to block it.
Our bodies react to any light we view in the morning by releasing cortisol, the hormone that wakes us up! So it is definitely in your best interest to cover all those little electronic lights, around the door, and around the window as much as possible!
3 -Dramatic Wake-Up
Sometimes your little one's early rising is due to something else entirely - maybe they know that when they get up they get to come into bed with you or they get a bottle of warm milk in bed, for example, and maybe it was working well for a while but the wake ups have now started getting earlier.
Sometimes just delaying the gratification of getting what they want can help immensely! How do you do this?
You could start by delaying getting them out of bed every few days by a little bit longer and then when you do, do a dramatic wake-up! Go in the room, open the windows, say "good morning!", and do something that isn't so much fun...like a diaper change and getting out of pjs..before doing what they love to do.
If after trying some of these things for a few days or a couple of weeks and you still aren't seeing results, let's set up a time to chat to brainstorm what could be turning your little one into an early riser! I have lots of evidence-based methods to turn to, that could be just the answer for you and your little one. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Book here!
* Walker, M. (2017) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams