The early bird may catch the worm but if you are a parent of a child who is waking at 5am I’m sure you’d rather catch a few more winks!
Most children go through periods of early waking, although annoying, these spells are often short lived and they quickly return to a more civilized waking hour. But for many parents, this phase can quickly become the norm. The exhausting, frustrating norm.
What counts as early morning waking can vary by family. For me, anything before 7am is just not acceptable! If you’ve got to be up at 6.30am then a 6am wake may actually be reasonable. Early morning waking usually means your baby or toddler has been waking between 4.30-6.30am for more than 2 weeks. Sometimes this early morning waking is accompanied by other sleep issues or it could be operating in isolation. Either way it leaves parents and children exhausted.
A lot of parents I speak to have resigned themselves to an early start; distracting their child with an iPad, resorting to bribery, trying to co “sleep” (not sleeping) or just begrudgingly getting up to watch paw patrol. Like all sleep issues, you don’t have to accept it; there is something you can do about it. We help parents with this very common problem everyday. Most of our clients find that within 3-7 days they’ve been able to swap 5am starts to 6.30-7am wake ups.
These are our top tips for those cursed with a 5am start:
- The root cause. With all sleep issues, we at Baby Tech Support, always tackle it from the source. There is a root cause; a reason for ALL sleep issues, some deep rooted and difficult to determine, others easy and obvious. So find the root cause. In our experience it is usually due to hunger, overtiredness and mistiming of naps.
- Turn off the lights. All children experience a period of “light sleep” between 4-6am. Most children simply roll over and transition into their last sleep cycle before waking at 6.30-7am while others are fully awakened. Night lights, natural light through curtains, even the smallest chink of light coming from the door can be enough to wake a child fully from this light sleep ready to start the day. If you’ve got a gro-clock and hoping this will be the magic trick to keep them in their beds, turn the light off or right down as I have known instances for this to exacerbate the problem rather than solve it!
- Bedtime. Most parents believe that the later they go to bed, the later they will wake up in the morning. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If your child is starting the day at 5am then it stands to reason that come their ‘usual’ bedtime they may well have been awake for up to 13-15 hours. Overtiredness is the number one cause of early morning waking so if you want to prevent overtiredness and keep them in bed longer in the morning, bring bedtime forward, not backwards.
- Daytime sleep. Most early waking is daytime sleep related; either they are not getting enough or they are getting too much at the wrong times. If your child is having a long, early morning nap between 8-11am and/or a long late afternoon nap between 3-5.30pm then chances are you’ll need to change this to stop those early wake ups.
- Time for a change. Often periods of early waking are a sign that something during their daytime needs to change. Often babies between 5-6.5 months start waking pre 7am when they are ready for weaning. For toddlers over 2 years old, early morning waking can signal the end of their naptime. (My commiserations)
Early starts are debilitating, frustrating and exhausting for parents. For children this 2 hour extension to their day usually results in more crying, more whinging, behavioural issues, food refusal and if left, leads to nighttime sleep issues too.
There is something you can do about it. Why wait?
If you need help with early morning waking or any aspect of your child’s sleep then get in touch now. We won’t tell you to leave them to cry, we won’t tell you it’s just a phase, we will fix it. Our affordable sleep solutions are tailored to your family and actually work! Sign up now at www.babytechsupport.co.uk/get-help/
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
19th September 2016