Does anyone here have a baby or toddler with a MASSIVE early rising problem? A mom in the My Sleeping My Sleeping Baby Facebook Community group posted about her daughter’s 3:30am start to her day, so I HAD to give her a response!
What is Considered “Early Rising”?
In my books, you’ve got an early rising problem on your hands when:
a) your little one is waking up before 6:00 AM for the day; or
b) your little one is waking up before 10.5-11 hours of nighttime sleep. So for example, if your baby had gone to bed at 8:00 PM for the night, you wouldn’t want him starting his day before 6:30am at the absolute earliest.
How in the WORLD do we Fix a 3:30am Start to the Day?
In this situation, it sounds like we have a baby who’s stuck in the wrong time zone. Even though this mom was battling early rising beforehand, the dreaded fall back time change has made things worse!
The biggest piece of advice here is treat ANY wake up before 6:00 AM or before it’s been 10.5-11 hours of night sleep as though it is nighttime. In other words, at 3:30am, don’t get her day started because it’s going to signal to her internal biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, that it’s time to start her day!
The Connection between Light and Our Biological Clocks
Our bodies are extremely sensitive to light, whether it’s natural or artificial. By turning on the lights, getting her dressed, feeding her, and ultimately getting her day started, it tells her circadian rhythm that 3:30am is morning. What make matters worse is when this baby goes down for a nap at 6:00am, which is when she should really just be starting her day. This early morning nap reinforces the early rising problem by getting her into this vicious cycle of waking early, napping early, going to bed early, and waking up early again. This is why it sounds like she is stuck in the wrong time zone! So to break this vicious cycle, I would treat a 3:30am wakeup as though it’s 3:30am….which is nighttime 🙂
Don’t underestimate how powerful exposure to light and darkness is for rejigging one’s internal alarm clock. And by the way, this applies equally to adults! Does anyone here remember repeatedly waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom during pregnancy? The biggest piece of advice I always give people when they need to use the bathroom at nighttime is to keep the lights off. Otherwise, it might be significantly harder for you to fall back asleep even though you WANT to.
Light is a very powerful tool can help you break your little one’s early rising cycle. Just keep to a very simple rule- only expose your little one to light when it’s daytime!