Hi. I’m Kim West, the Sleep Lady and in this video blog, I’m going to answer this mom’s question:
“You helped my family tremendously 5 years ago when my twins were a year old and not sleeping. After working with you, the results were amazing. Now, I’m turning to you to help me again. May 6 year old wakes up early around 5 or 5:30 every morning. He doesn’t go back to sleep and he’ll either play quietly in his room or he goes to wake up his twin sister which does not go over well.
“The real problem is that he’s clearly tired throughout the day. And it’s affecting his school day. He’d take a nap during the day if he could. And my husband and I have tried everything we can think of to get him to go back to sleep. We’ve put in room darkening shades in his room, we’ve walked him back to his room when he gets up, sitting with him, trying not to engage with him, and nothing seems to work. And by the way, he goes to sleep around 7:30 each night and has no problem following a sleep. Any advice would be most welcome.”
I’m so glad that our work together 5 years ago worked so beautifully. I don’t know how long this has been going on with your 6 year old now, but that would be an interesting fact to know. If I look at 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., that means he’s getting 10 hours of sleep which isn’t horrible.
Know How Much Sleep Your Child Needs
The most important thing you told me about that is that he is tired, and it’s affecting his school day. That means that 10 hours is not enough sleep for him, and I’m concerned about what the quality of his 10 hours of sleep are. I want you to rule out sleep apnea, which can be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids at his age (if you still have my book, go check the medical chapter. I have a long list in there.).
The common symptoms I would look for are mouth breathing during the day and the night. When we sleep, we are supposed to breathe through our nose, so look to see if he is doing this when you’re talking to him during the day and when you check on him before you go to bed at night. Another possible indication of sleep apnea is snoring. Children shouldn’t snore, period, unless they have some kind of sinus infection or significant illness.
In general, you want to look for snoring, mouth breathing, any loud or labored breathing, sleeping with his head cocked back in bed, sweating while he sleeps, restless sleeping (if he’s like all over the place), the blankets falling off the bed. If he still wets the bed, or is not able to stay dry at night, that would be another sign, too. Other indications could be a history of reflux, allergies, or asthma, bascially anything that’s going to interfere with his breathing while he sleeps.
An ENT or a pediatric pulmonologist would be able to explain to you why sleep apnea causes early rising. I don’t want to get into great detail, but it can cause early rising and sleep apnea can be very stubborn, meaning that all behavioural methods to help your child learn to go back to sleep don’t work. Now, that’s not to say that you should ignore it behaviourally but I do want you to go check out his… Get his tonsils and adenoids checked out, okay?
Adenoids are hard to see so they might need to do an x-ray, or scope his nose, to see if there’s a problem.
Enforce Good Sleep Manners
In terms of behavior, go over some sleep manners and explain that it’s not okay to wake up your twin sister. Tell him, we will put a gate on your door if we need to. Be sure to go over the sleep manners at bed time and again in the morning. I would also do a wake up light.
I would not encourage him to turn on his light when he wakes up. If you have to put a switch or even remove a bulb during this process because again, if he’s waking up at 5, turning the light up reading books and he’s exhausted in school, this is not helping him. Maybe you could teach him some creative visualization techniques.
The first thing that I want you to do is to go to your doctor and rule out sleep apnea, and then take some of those other behavioural approaches that I’ve suggested.
Video filmed by In Focus Studios