Every parent dreads the thought of starting their day before 6am. Even waking up before 7am can be challenging!
Here’s the not-so-good news: If your baby or child is waking between 6am and 6:30am and is well-rested, you may have to accept this reality. On the other hand, if your child is waking before 6am or is waking up between 6-6:30am but is collapsing from exhaustion by 7:30am, it is essential to step in and teach her how to sleep later.
Thankfully, the cause of early rising is usually easy to point out, making the problem quite fixable! Here are a few common culprits of this dreaded 5am wake-up:
If your child is waking up at the crack of dawn, this often means that a) your child’s bedtime is too late; b) the duration of your child’s nap(s) were not long enough; or c) the amount of time your child is awake between his last nap of the day and bedtime is too long for his age. Quite often, a combination of these factors is causing the early rising.
I know this goes against the common misconception that a later bedtime and shorter naps will lead to a later wake up, but the reality is often the opposite. When a child becomes overtired, their nervous systems produce a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is present in their bodies, it is very common for a child to begin waking up early.
2) Too much light
It is essential to ensure your child’s room is DARK! On a scale of 1-10, if ‘10’ is pitch black, it’s ideal for the room to be an ‘8’. If the sun is beaming through the windows at 5:30am, it could wake up your child. Installing blackout blinds is your best bet to avoid this problem.
For babies under 8 months who aren’t eating enough solid food, an early morning wake up could be caused by this hunger. Giving your baby a dream feed between 10-11pm, where your baby feeds without fully waking up, can help. Make sure your child is getting all the calories and nutrients he needs during the day!
4) Weak self-soothing skills
If your child isn’t able to fall asleep on his own without any help, he will struggle putting himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Make sure your baby is going to sleep drowsy but completely awake and aware of being put to bed.
5) Medical issues
Sleep Apnea, snoring, GERD, or even a mild cold can affect breathing, which will affect sleep. If you are concerned with your child’s breathing, speak to your pediatrician.
If your child is consistently waking up before 6am, fix the problem as soon as possible! Over time, your child’s early rising could become habitual, which means you will need to spend a lot of time teaching him to fall back to sleep at 5am. It is very important to treat this pre-dawn wakeup as a night-waking- do NOT get your child up before 6am because you don’t want his body to get used to waking at this time.