Babies wake up early. It’s a fact. Many new parents are surprised to learn that most babies are up for the day between 6-7 a.m. Some, unfortunately, are up much earlier than this.
When a child wakes at 4-5 a.m. for the day, it’s considered early rising. Thankfully, once the problem is identified, it’s fairly simple to turn it around with some consistent effort. Here are some tips to deal with your early riser.
Avoid going to bed overtired. When children go to bed exhausted, it’s harder for them to go to sleep and stay asleep. Common causes of exhaustion are:
A too-late bedtime. The average bedtime for a child under 5 years old is between 7-8 p.m.
Nap deprivation. Babies who miss naps or don’t nap long enough tend to have more trouble sleeping at night.
Staying awake too long between naps. When a child’s time between naps or bedtime is too long, it can cause early rising.
Rule out underlying medical conditions. Sleep apnea, snoring, GERD, or even a cold can make breathing—and therefore sleep—difficult. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your child’s ability to breathe.
Create a sleep-friendly environment. How much light is in a child’s bedroom can greatly affect sleep.
Eliminate hunger. For babies under 8 months old, early rising may be caused by hunger. Consider a dream feed, where the child feeds during the night without fully waking up.
Awake enough at bedtime. Be sure to put a child in the crib while they are still alert and aware that they are being put to bed. Children that are put to bed too drowsy are not able to learn to put themselves back to sleep during the night.
Use “the sleep shuffle.” Treat early rising the same as nighttime sleep training, but only continue these methods until 6:00 a.m. when the child should be rising.
Differentiate between sleep and awake time. Waking up children dramatically, by making a big deal about saying “Good morning!” for example, will positively reinforce waking for the day rather than rising because of crying.
Remember that the key to changing any sleep behavior is both time and consistency. The hour between 6 and 7 a.m. is a normal wake time for children. To avoid an overtired child, be sure to adjust their schedule based upon when they wake up (moving to an earlier bedtime, if necessary).
- Kim West, LCSW-C
- The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight.
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