Rise & Shine – Tips to Stop Early Rising in Toddlers!

  • 3
  • October 20, 2011
early rising toddler

early rising toddlerMornings for some of you, it seems, begin as early as 4 AM as others of you lounge around until 9 AM waiting for your baby to wake up.

Both of these scenarios, however, can have their own repercussions.

Waking up too early can mean a tired family and earlier naps, throwing off bedtime rituals later. Waking up too late does the opposite, pushing nap time to later in the day and sometimes prolonging bedtime.

The solution is to find a schedule that works for you and your family and teach your child to stick to it!

Early risings sometimes have a very simple solution.

If too much light is coming into the baby’s room, buy room-darkening blinds (also good for napping). If an external noise-garbage trucks, songbirds, or a dad with a long commute who has turned on the shower-is waking him, you might want to try a white noise machine or a fan.

Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple.

If your child is awake at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., cheerful, refreshed, and ready to start his day-even if you aren’t-you’ll probably have to live with it. That’s a common and biologically appropriate wake-up time for a baby or small child.

Remember to adapt the meal and nap schedule to suit his early hours.

Important points about early rising

Babies who wake up before 6:00 a.m., or who wake up cheerful at 6:00 or 6:30 but are a total grump by 7:00, are a different story.

You need to intervene and coach him to sleep later. The longer you endure early risings, the harder it is to change the pattern, so I strongly suggest you address it now, even if it takes a few weeks to see results.

Once they’re older, it can take months.

Make sure your early riser is getting enough daytime sleep because nap deprivation can cause poor night sleep and early awakenings.

If your baby is under 8months old and you think he is waking up very early because he is hungry, try waking him for a final feeding about 11:00 p.m. as an interim step, and also work on making sure he takes more food during the day.

Respond Immediately

When your early bird stirs, go to his room immediately.

You want to try to get him back to sleep ASAP, not let him scream himself awake. Give him his lovey and try to soothe him back to sleep without picking him up. (Follow the Sleep Lady Shuffle guidelines outlined in Good Night Sleep Tight).

Even if he doesn’t doze off again-and not all babies will at first-do not turn on the lights or get him out of his crib until 6:00 a.m. no matter how much he protests. Getting him up earlier, while it is still dark, sends a confusing message and is another example of intermittent reinforcement.

He can’t understand why he can get up in the dark at 5:45 a.m. but not at 2:15 a.m. Also, many parents I’ve worked with have learned the hard way that if they let him get up at 5:45 a.m., the next thing they know it’s 5:30, 5:15, etc.

Stay in Your Child’s Room

At this age, I usually recommend that the parent stay in the room for this early-morning routine.

If, however, you feel your presence is encouraging him to be more awake, as often occurs with older children, you can try leaving his room after a bit of reassurance and see if he falls asleep again on his own.

Check on him every ten to fifteen minutes.

If you stay in the room, keep the interaction minimal. Try sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. When the clock finally strikes 6:00 a.m. and he’s not falling asleep-and it can seem like it takes a very long time to reach 6:00 a.m.-leave the room for a minute or two.

He may cry, but try not to let it bother you, you will be right back in a minute.

When you come back in, make a big deal out of “good morning” time. Do your dramatic wake-up.

The morning routine is the flip side of the bedtime-routine coin. Your goal is to help him distinguish between day and night, to know when it really is time to get up.

Your message must be clear: “I’m getting you out of the crib because it’s morning time-not because you were crying.”

Treat Early Rising Like Night Wakings

If your early riser is over 2 or 2.5 years old and sleeps in a bed, then you will have to return your child to their bed and treat this like a night wakening.

Continue with your Shuffle position until the clock strikes 6:00 a.m. Consider using an alarm clock radio or a light with an appliance timer to help signal to your child when it is wake up time.

If you sometimes let you child get out of bed and start the day before the music comes on then he or she will not take the alarm clock seriously!

Four most common causes of early rising

1. Too late of a bedtime.

2. Nap deprivation.

3. Staying up too long between the end of his afternoon nap and going to bed (try not to let the interval exceed four hours).

4. Going to bed when he’s past that “drowsy but awake” mark. If he’s too drowsy, he won’t know how to get himself back to sleep when he’s more alert-including at 5:00a.m.

  • Skipping naps and putting your child to bed later will cause early rising-I know it’s not logical, and  you and I would never do that – but it is true!
  • You can’t assume your child needs less sleep than the average until they are taking decent naps and sleeping through the night for several weeks.
  • Room darkening shades are critical!
  • Early rising takes several weeks of utter consistency to change so stick with it!

If your child is new to early rising since daylight saving time, use the nap to get to the new bedtime. In other words make sure the nap is after 12 p.m., and is long enough so that the wakeful window after the nap is not longer than 4 hours (max 5 for a toddler/preschooler who is well rested).

Patience, consistency, and understanding of both your child and his needs are critical for this process to be successful. Be firm and be loving and good mornings will be right around the corner! I wish you both many happy mornings together!

If you have any questions about your child’s early rising, be sure to check out my Sleep Lady Facebook Page, where we have Gentle Sleep Coaches available to answer your questions every day!

 

Was this article helpful to you? For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

 

 

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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32 Comments

  • Selina Rossiter says:

    My daughter is almost 2 1/2. We’re traveling from the east coast to Colorado for Thanksgiving… back 2 hours! yikes. We weathered the time change well and we have a good schedule going: asleep 7 or 7:15, up around 6, napping from 12:30-2 or 2:30. We’ve worked very hard on early rising and 6 am wake ups are a wonderful thing at our house. I’m terrified of what will happen out west! We’ll only be there 5 nights… too few to really adjust but too many to suffer through. Any tips?

  • C says:

    We are in a one bedroom apartment. Our 9 month old shares the room with Mom and Dad. My husband gets up very early for work (around 5am). Sometimes our daughter will sleep until six or so, but for the most part, she wakes up around the same time. I usually give her a bottle and she eventually goes back to sleep. This is carried over from when she was younger and needed to eat every few hours. Now… I’m afraid we’ve created a bad habit (on top of us waking her up). She is normally a good napper, but some days she only goes down for a half hour at a time. We put her to bed around seven (or when she starts to show signs – rubbing eyes, etc).

  • Kim says:

    How do you help your child distinguish between being dark and time to sleep at 4am and dark but time to wake up at 600am? In other words, When the sun isn’t out yet, how can you help him understand that dark is for sleeping, but it’s okay to get up when it’s dark still at 6am or 630am??

  • Erin says:

    My son is 5 1/2 and has ALWAYS given us one problem or another when it comes to sleep! Now that he is “older,” he does pretty well- the problem is that he is on too early of a schedule overall. That is, he goes to bed at 7:00 and wakes at 5:30 or 6- hardly ever later. So, if we try to push his bedtime later, by 15 or 30 minutes, he wakes up super early- between 5 and 5:30- and is then tired the whole day. This makes it all worse because then he is sook tired by 7pm! He is in kindergarten! I would love to shift this all later- 8pm bedtime, waking at 6:30 or 7! Any suggestions?!

  • Amy Hickman says:

    Target sells a small alarm clock (about $7) where each number is a different color. The first number is green. Our four-year-old son, who is always awake before 7am, knows that he can come out of his room at the “green seven.” It is also a good tool at nap time, to make sure they get a proper amount of rest. It has been a great $7 investment!

  • Andi Tomaszewski says:

    Help! We are the in the middle of the Shuffle with my 6 month old son Levi. He is doing great! I do the bedtime routine, my husband puts him down to sleep, he cries for about 15-20 minutes (down from an hour last week) and he’s asleep for about 10.5-11 hours straight (usually from 7:30/8pm to 6/6:30am). However in the midst of the Shuffle (and I’m guessing daylight saving) he is getting up an hour ealier. When we were co-sleeping and nursing to sleep (yes, 2 negative associations to squash!)he slept from about 8/8:30 to 7:30/8, although he woke up a couple of times to nurse and had a tough time going to sleep despite the nursing and warmth of our bed. My 2 problems now are one, he is waking up earlier and two, he hasn’t been napping at all during the day but is super tired. Since I need to take my daughter to school at 8:15 I can’t put him down for his morning nap until we get back at 9 which by then I think he is overtired. I was just nursing him to sleep (in his crib) to make sure he got some daytime sleep but that’s not working anymore, he wakes up as soon as I put him down. I tried doing the Shuffle with him, staying there and soothing but that didn’t work. Now I’m trying the Ferber method and checking on him every few minutes but I think that makes him angrier. He contines to cry for the full hour! I’ve picked him up over his crib when he’s been crying hysterically and he instantly stops, so I stopped picking him up…figured I’d been “had.” So now I’m at a loss, he’s waking up earlier, missing the opportunity for morning nap, and the afternoon nap is even worse. I don’t want there to but too much time between afternoon nap and bedtime so I end up nursing him on the couch for a quick nap that he instantly falls a sleep. I’m not sure what to do at this point! Nightime sleep is getting better, daytime sleep is getting worse!!

  • Anne says:

    What time do you see as ideal bedtime for a 21 month old who is up at 6 am? We haven’t totally conquered early rising, as there is still frequently a wakeup between 500 and 6, we just don’t say “good morning” til 6. He is cheerful for the morning but will fall asleep by noon if we’re in the car (so we avoid the car at that time!), trying to stretch nap til 1230 or 1. He sleeps for two hours, usually. My husband and I disagree on a 7 or 730 bedtime.

    • KimWest says:

      Anne-
      While you are working on improving his sleep and reducing early rising I would put him in bed at 7pm
      Thanks!
      Kim

  • jessicafancher says:

    Same issues as above, but my son is almost 3, and he goes to bed about 8 pm and wakes at 5am with a 2 hour nap miid day. Should he be going to bed earlier? This has been a problem for us since he turned 1 and I stopped nursing, so almost 2 years bow. PLEASE HELP! 🙂

    • KimWest says:

      Make sure your son is going down from a completely wakeful state at bedtime without you having to do anything to help him get to sleep so you can be absolutely sure that he knows how to put himself to sleep so he can apply that skill at 5am. Secondly, rule out sleep apnea which can cause early rising! Look for any of these symptoms: snoring, mouth breathing, sweating when sleeping, restless sleep, frequent congestion, reflux and bedwetting…and that is just a few! Often it can be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Consider also a sleep manner chart and a wake up light and then explain to your son that he must stay quietly in his bed until the wake up light comes on. Read more about the details in “Good Night, Sleep Tight”! Stay consistent! Good luck!

  • SherriH says:

    you mention “at this age” the parent should go into the room, but maybe not if they are older.  I was just wondering what age that you mean?  
     
    we have been battling 5am early wakings for three months now, for 2 months we would leave him till 6am making his ‘settling noises’ but he never settled, and we then do a wakeup type routine. but was/is tired within 2 hours then we bumped up his bedtime from 7:30 to 6:30 and now he is waking up consistently at 5am or earlier.  he rarely naps more then 2 hours (usually 1hr 10mins exactly) at either morning (8:30-9am) or afternoon nap (1pm) and occasionally refuses to take an afternoon nap (though he stays in his room/crib for the duration of a 2 hour nap). reading this article it might be that the stretch between pm nap and bed is too long for him since he will only nap 1hr 10mins??
     
    unfortunately for the last week I have been inconsistent in an attempt to adjust bedtimes/nap times/ breakfast times and think I’ve really messed things up! 
    he is 15 months old now – how do you know when they are ready to give up the morning nap??  with the early wakings I just don’t see how he could last until an afternoon nap!
    thanks.

  • Teebrin says:

    My daughter was getting up earlier every day — She was now getting up as early as 5:30. I was considering buying a gro-clock but I wasn’t convinced it would be effective. Then I found a 1$ app for my iPod (http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/kids-sleep-clock/id550928067?l=en&mt=8). At that price, it was worth a try.
     
    It actually ended up working better than I would have expected. We set the thing to 6:30 and she actually waits until the moon changes to the sun before getting out of bed. We know she wakes up a little before that time but she actually quietly waits until the right time. At 6:30, not a minute later, she comes to us saying “Mommy, the sun is there!”

  • saramegan says:

    Can you give advice for an 11 month old daughter.  She goes down to sleep no later than 7pm and wakes right around 6am, however, she has been fighting her morning nap now.  I can’t imagine her getting up at 5:45-6am (ish) time every morning and then making it to an afternoon nap (1pm-2pm), time frame.  Most of what i have read says that 2 naps are still needed until right around 15-18 months.  Thank you!

  • mkmkmusic says:

    Our 17-month-old wakes for the day around 5 am. We have recently begun using your book to tackle this problem, and my husband is the one who does the Sleep Lady Shuffle techniques in the wee morning hours. Our issue is this — when he goes in to soothe our son, it seems to wake him up MORE, and he cries harder and longer. How do we combat that? We’ve stuck to it for about a week now, and this morning encountered a different problem: our son woke at 5 am, but was happy and talking to himself. This led to a debate between my husband and I — do we leave him be or go in to try to get him back to sleep? My husband ended up going in (which was what he was advocating for) and, as I had predicted, my son woke up even more and started screaming. What do we do if they wake happy, but at an unacceptably early hour?

  • mkmkmusic says:

    Our 17-month-old wakes for the day around 5 am. We have recently begun using your book to tackle this problem, and my husband is the one who does the Sleep Lady Shuffle techniques in the wee morning hours. Our issue is this — when he goes in to soothe our son, it seems to wake him up MORE, and he cries harder and longer. How do we combat that? We’ve stuck to it for about a week now, and this morning encountered a different problem: our son woke at 5 am, but was happy and talking to himself. This led to a debate between my husband and I — do we leave him be or go in to try to get him back to sleep? My husband ended up going in (which was what he was advocating for) and, as I had predicted, my son woke up even more and started screaming. What do we do if they wake happy, but at an unacceptably early hour?

  • Emma255 says:

    Hi my son is 9 months old, I have been. Following the Gina ford book. At the moment my sons routine is 7 am wake up, 9.30-10am nap, 12.30 nap till 2.30pm 4.30pm rest in bed for 10-15 mins he doesn’t seem to sleep just cuddle his bear and coo. ( I do this to help him get to bed time) 7.15 bedtime. He does all this perfectly, and he eats four meals a day as he is not a good milk feeder. He’s a healthy, happy little chap as he gets food and rest as he needs it. Just recently he has been waking early on a morning from 6am. How can I change this we have a black out blind and curtains in his room.

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      Hi, Emma! 6 am is a normal wake time for your little one, so it sounds like he’s right on track! I know it may seem early to you, but as Kim mentions in this video, it’s a biologically appropriate time. Hang in there!

  • CandisFerguson says:

    I have a 4 month old that started waking up at 5-5:30am everyday she used to sleep until 7-7:30 and she goes to bed at 6:45 each night. she takes 2 naps aprox 1.5h-2 hours and another about 30-45 min  we don’t keep her up longer that 2- 2.25 hours at a time and we were only keeping her up for 2.25 when she was getting up before 7 to try an keep her on track for her naps. She has acid reflux and we have her on meds + we keep her crib elevated at one end to help her…. we have come a long way since she was 1 month old and not sleeping for longer than 30min (2-4 at night) at a time using the sleep lady system. I just can’t seem to get her to go back to sleep in the am unless we pat her to sleep (we don’t do that anymore because it had become a sleep crutch) and she has yet to go back to sleep on her own… she gets up once a night at 1ish for a quick meal and gets put back in her crib awake. Does anyone have any suggestions???
    Alexis’ mom

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      It sounds like you may be experiencing the 4 Month Sleep Regression. Also, 4 months may be a bit young to be formally sleep training, as your baby has just begun to establish adult sleep patterns, and many babies aren’t ready for sleep coaching until closer to 6 months.

    • breefawn says:

      CandisFerguson It sounds like you may be experiencing the 4 month sleep regression. You can read more in this article: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/4-month-sleep-regression. Also, 4 months may be a bit young to be formally sleep training, as your baby has just begun to establish adult sleep patterns, and many babies aren’t ready for sleep coaching until closer to 6 months.

  • breefawn says:

    Emma255 It sounds like your routine is solid, Emma! Remember that Kim pointed out in this article “If your child is awake at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., cheerful, refreshed, and ready to start his day-even if you aren’t-you’ll probably have to live with it. That’s a common and biologically appropriate wake-up time for a baby or small child. Remember to adapt the meal and nap schedule to suit his early hours.”

  • Starwarssleeve says:

    Help please! My baby wakes up 4-4.30 every day and is rubbing her eyes shortly after eating breakfast! I’ve tried leaving her til 5am wriggling/moaning in her cot and its made no difference. She’s wide awake raring to go but then sleepy half hour to an hour later. It’s crippling me and making me so tired for my older child 2.5yrs. Any tips welcome!

    • breefawn says:

      Starwarssleeve That sounds incredibly frustrating. The Sleep Lady actually has a few additional articles on early rising (http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/8-tips-to-resolve-early-rising and http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/5-common-causes-of-early-rising). I would also advise you to go to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thesleeplady) and post your question there for a certified sleep coach to answer. Good luck!!

  • breefawn says:

    Hi, jusiahsmom. It sounds like he may be experiencing a sleep regression (especially with just learning to roll over). You can read more tips for handling sleep regressions here: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep-problems/sleep-regression-just-a-phase/. I would also recommend that you visit The Sleep Lady’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thesleeplady) and post your question there for the weekly featured Gentle Sleep Coach. She may have some suggestions as to why he’s sleeping for just your mom. Good luck!!

  • breefawn says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that, kendrakincaid! You’re not alone. A couple things could be happening…he could be experiencing a http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep-problems/pre-toddler-sleep-regression/, or you may need to look at http://www.sleeplady.com/naps-2/everything-you-need-to-know-about-baby-and-toddler-naps/. I would recommend posting your question on http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady where one of the Certified Gentle Sleep Coaches can help you more. Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    Thoffman that sounds so frustrating! It sounds like his bedtime may be too late and naps too early. You may want to review a http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/typical-sleep-schedules-recommended-hours-of-sleep/ My next suggestion would be to post your question on The Sleep Lady’s http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady. We have two sleep coaches who can help you solve this problem. Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    Hi GirlFromRio! I think that maybe reading a few of our articles about http://www.sleeplady.com/naps-2/naps-naps-and-naps-how-when-and-why/ may help, and I would also encourage you to post your question to The Sleep Lady http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady where a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can help you! Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    MelEstradaReese mkmkmusic I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with early rising! This http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/5-common-causes-of-early-rising/#.UnqnuvmTg7s may help you, too. 🙂

  • breefawn says:

    CiaraBallintyne1 MelEstradaReese That’s tough. I would recommend that you review the chapter in Good Night, Sleep Tight for your child’s age, and  post your question on The Sleep Lady http://facebook.com/thesleeplady where a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can help you 🙂

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