In our guide to early waking we’re going to cover these topics:
- What is early waking?
- How sleep environment can help.
- Balancing day and night sleep.
- How settling to sleep affects early mornings.
What is early waking?
Some of us, adults and children alike, are natural early birds. ‘Morning larks’ tend to wake up naturally early in the morning and feel ready to start the day.
However, waking up at the crack of dawn each day can really take its toll on parents and children who aren’t managing to get enough sleep.
We treat anything before around 6am-6:30am as an early waking. Whilst babies and young children tend to naturally start their days quite early, starting the day at 4am or 5am is likely to be early for any of us.
We can’t make promises that your baby or young child will let you have a long lie-in each day, but we do have some great tips that can help you tackle very early wake-ups.
If you have ruled out hunger, needing a nappy change, being too hot or too cold as triggers for early waking, then these tips can help you tackle early starts.
Tip #1: Sleep Environment: Black out that bedroom.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure their bedroom is dark. And when we say dark, we mean dark! We want to make sure there isn’t a crack of light peeping into the room. Darkness helps us get to sleep and stay asleep. Even a small peep of light can be stimulating and signal to our brains that it is time to wake up. This is particularly important in the spring and summer months when the sun rises earlier than we want to start the day
Try a well fitting black out blind and/or black out curtains. For quick and easy fixes you can get great travel black out blinds or even use foil or cardboard to block out light.
Tip #2: Try and limit early morning noise.
Also be aware of any noise or disturbance that happens around the time of your little one waking. It may be that other people in the home are getting up and ready for the day, bird song, traffic noise or even the sound of your heating clicking on is causing your child to stir and find it hard to settle back to sleep.
Even children who can sleep through some noise earlier in the night can find it hard to get back to sleep when they are disturbed in the early hours.
Try and reduce any noise that you can control. If there are sounds outside of your control then white noise can be a helpful tool to distract from it.
Tip #3: Balance of sleep: Naps and bedtime can all impact wake-up time.
Take a look at your little one’s nap lengths and timings. A long morning nap can be used as a top-up to catch up on lost night time sleep. Similarly, older toddlers can use a long lunchtime nap to compensate for a crack of dawn start to the day. Consider gradually reducing nap length or pushing a morning nap a little later each day to help push back that wake-up time.
Review bedtime. If your little one falls asleep early in the evening then it is possible they have slept for as long as they need come 5am. You can try moving bedtime back a little – even 15 minutes can help.
When looking at early wake-ups we want to look at the pattern of sleep across an entire 24 hour period. Whether early wake-ups are a new thing in your house, or your child has been waking up at dawn for some time, making adjustments to their balance of sleep can be all that is needed.
Tip #4: How do they settle to sleep?
It feels strange to think about how our children fall asleep when the issue we want to improve is all about waking up! But how our little one’s fall asleep is an important area to look at.
We all naturally wake between sleep cycles during the night and are able to fall back to sleep if we can recreate the conditions we experienced when we first dropped off. In the early hours it can be harder to return to sleep as we already have some sleep under our belts. Little one’s who need lots of support to fall asleep at bedtime, or when they wake at night, can find it particularly tricky to return to sleep when they stir in the early morning.
If your little one has a heavy reliance on external factors such as rocking or feeding to sleep, or using a dummy, then it may be time to practice a new way of settling to sleep.
Would you like more help with your baby’s sleep?
If you would like to know more about baby sleep and have some suggestions on how to achieve a well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your baby sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.