Tips to help with early morning waking

For children who wake early (which would be before 6am), there may well be behavioural and other factors that need to be addressed. However there are some initial things you can do, to see if any of these help solve the problem:

1) Review their bedtime. Is your child falling asleep very early – before 7pm? If so, it may be unrealistic to expect them to sleep 11-12 hours overnight. It may be that your little one needs a shorter nighttime sleep and more daytime sleep. Try shifting their bedtime a little later, in small 15 minute increments, to see if this alters the waking time.

2) Is your child falling asleep too late? Overtired children often wake early. If your child is falling asleep after about 8pm and they are under 6 years old, try bringing their bedtime earlier.

3) Make sure your child naps (if age appropriate) right in the middle of their awake period in the day. There is a balance between sleep pressure (the drive to fall asleep) and over-tiredness. You neither want your child to nap too soon after waking so that they then have a long awake period before bedtime, or too long after waking so that they are overtired going into the nap, and also do not have long enough time awake before bedtime.

4) When your child wakes early, try to keep them in the dark, and do not turn the lights on immediately. If your child is waking at 4.30, wait quietly with them in the dark for 20-30 minutes, then turn the light on and cheerfully (I know this is hard!) say ‘Good morning’, and start the day. This gives your child the message that when it’s light, it’s time to get up. Keep making the time the lights go on and your start the day later and later.

5) Try ‘stirring’ your child about 15 minutes before the usual wake up time to see if you can re-boot the sleep cycle and delay the wake up time.

6) Do not give your child food until the normal breakfast time. There is an abundance of evidence that eating times strongly influence the circadian rhythm, so try to keep your meal times regular and at sensible times.

7) If your child falls asleep very early in the evening, then keep the lights on brightly in the evening until 1 hour before your bedtime routine starts. Most people fall asleep about 2 hours after their melatonin(sleepy hormone) begins to rise, which is closely linked to light exposure.

8) Expose your child to as much natural bright light as possible, in the daytime. If the light is dim, then keep the lights on, or consider a bright lightbulb in your lamps.

9) If your child is old enough, you could try leaving some toys and quiet activities out to keep them occupied until they are allowed to get up.

If you are still struggling after trying some of these tips, then please do get in touch and we can work on a bespoke plan to get your little one sleeping later in the morning. 


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