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Sneaky Causes of Early Rising — What Can You Do?

A reader wrote in a great question about the causes of early rising.

“Hi there. My baby girl has just turned 7 months and her sleeping patterns are rapidly going downhill. From 4 1/2 to 6 months, she was sleeping from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., lucky me. Life is great and I was a happy mom. We had loads of energy to play with our baby and our 3-year old son. Over the last month, my baby went from waking at 7:00 a.m. to waking at 5:00 a.m. (wide awake). And she’s now waking at 3:00 a.m. (wide awake) until 5:00 a.m. I’ve introduced solids in that time thinking she was hungry, but that doesn’t seem to help.

“I tried giving her bottle at 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. when she wakes but she just doesn’t seem hungry and she only takes 15 milliliters. I’ve tried resettling her in her bed but that always ends in tears. I’ve tried resettling her with the dummy but that doesn’t work. How do I go about sleep training and not leaving her to cry it out. I want to be a happy mom again. Thanks so much for your help. -Lilia.”

Lilia, here are some things I want you to consider to help with early rising:

  • Is she well-napped?
  • What’s her bedtime?
  • Have you spoken with your pediatrician?

causes of early rising

Is she well-napped?

Since she’s at the perfect age to sleep coach — 6 to 9 months — you can get a lot changed with minimal crying. Hopefully, some of that has to do with temperament. Since insufficient naps can be one of the causes of early rising, ask yourself:

• Is she getting enough naps?
• Are the windows of wakefulness on target for her age group?

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Make sure she’s not nap deprived. Make sure that the window between her afternoon nap and bedtime is not too big. Lots of times at 7 months, babies need about 2 and a half naps, maybe 3 naps. So, maybe try a third “bonus nap” that helps her make it to bedtime without being overtired. Good naps are essential when you’re dealing with early rising.

For a list of flexible schedules at every age:
Read: Sample Schedules: Sleep and Naps From 6 Months to Preschool

Is her bedtime early enough?

You didn’t mention what time her bedtime was. Usually at this age, it’s between 7 and 7:30p.m. Often, babies this age can sleep for 11 hours. Going to bed too late is one of the most common causes of early rising, even though that seems counterintuitive.

After that, you’ll want to make sure she is going to bed awake. This is important because bedtime is the easiest time to put yourself to sleep, and if she can’t master that at 7:00 p.m. then she won’t be able to do it at 3, 4, or 5:00 a.m. It’s much harder to go back to sleep at those time.

Wondering how to put your baby to bed awake?
Read: Drowsy But Awake — The Cornerstone of Successful Sleep Training

I know if I get up at 5 or even 5:30a.m. and I’m awake a little too long, my brain starts to tick-tick-tick-tick with all the things I have to do, and I have a hard time going back to sleep. I’ve gotten enough sleep to take that sleep pressure off to go back to sleep. But really, it’s not enough sleep to be restorative, which means that I’m tired somewhere midday. With babies, they tire really quickly in the morning.

Again, don’t forget to make sure she’s awake enough. Between that 4 1/2 and 6 months when everything is sort of beautiful, were you putting her in to a cot completely asleep by holding or rocking — or whatever you are doing now — and now she’s used to you helping and is waking up early in the morning.

Double Check with your Doctor

Another of the common causes of early rising can be a medical condition. Please speak to your doctor and make sure there is no underlying medical condition like reflux or sleep apnea that may be causing her to wake early in the morning.

Want to read more tips about the causes of early rising?
Read: Early Rising in Babies and Toddlers – 10 Tips to Resolve Early Wake-Ups