You’re dead asleep, and then you hear it: your bedroom door creaks open and tiny footsteps are headed straight for you. You manage to open one eye and see that it’s 5:15 a.m. Ugh. Why does this keep happening? Why is your toddler waking up too early? Do you just have an early riser? Are you destined to wake up at 5 a.m. for the rest of your life?
I can confidently tell you no.
Waking at 5 a.m. isn’t cool for anyone – kids or adults – and there are things you can do to fix it.
First things first: kids should be able to naturally sleep until at least 6 a.m.
6 a.m. may sound early to some, but biologically, it’s when our kids are set up to wake.
For those of you with early risers who see the 5 o’clock hour every morning, sleeping until 6 might sound like a dream! Let's look at how we can make that happen.
>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇
Manage those early wake ups: how to sleep train a toddler in 2 simple steps
So, why the heck is your toddler waking up too early in the first place?
The main cause of early wake-ups is being overtired. That’s just a technical way of saying that kids who chronically aren’t getting enough total sleep don’t sleep well and tend to wake up super early.
Your child needs to be getting 10-12 hours of sleep every night.
Yes, that’s a lot of sleep. But it’s what science has shown us they need.
I had a call with a family today who said, “My 3-year-old sleeps from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., which is 9 hours. Maybe he’s just not tired anymore.”
But 9 hours of sleep is not enough. That lack of sleep is actually the reason why the child is waking at 5 a.m.
So, what’s the solution? It starts with getting your child more, better-quality sleep. That’s the only way they’ll start sleeping later in the morning.
Solving this problem takes a 2-step approach:
1. Put your child to bed earlier.
Yes, it seems a little counter-intuitive that putting them to bed earlier will help them sleep later. But it’s true. We say, it’s not logical, it’s biological.
You’ve got to get your child more sleep, and the best time to do that is in the evening when they’re most sleepy. Parents with kids under 6-years-old should aim for bedtime between 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., depending on your child’s age and whether or not they still nap.
2. Make sure they’re sleeping straight through the night.
If you’re hearing from your child or interacting with them overnight, that’s contributing to their overtiredness. Examples include changing sleeping locations, having to walk them back to their room, multiple potty breaks, tantrums, long periods of wakefulness, etc.
Consistent sleep overnight is very important to prevent early wake ups. If you need help with this, check out helpful tips on my blog at AwesomeLittleSleepers.com or check out my video on Night Wakings.
Are you contributing to your toddler waking up too early?
I’ve been working with families for almost a decade, and early waking is one of the biggest issues families face. Like I mentioned, having a too-late bedtime is usually the main culprit.
But there are 2 other things you might be doing to contribute to the problem…
If your toddler is dropping their daily nap, it can cause early waking.
Because kids are missing some of the daytime sleep they used to get, it can lead to – you guessed it – getting over tired. When your 3-or-4-year-old is dropping their daily nap, move bedtime up a little earlier to make up for some of the lost sleep. This will help prevent early wake ups.
Pre-dawn cuddles in mom and dad’s bed encourages early wake ups.
Lots of parents let their kids climb into bed with them if it’s close to morning and they just want to get a little more rest. The issue with this is that it can encourage kids to keep waking up early to get those morning snuggles. It can also cause kids to wake up earlier than they already do to see if it’s time to come sleep in your bed yet.
It’s best to keep the mornings boring and encourage kids to stay in their room until at least 6 a.m. Using a color-changing toddler clock can help with this.
To learn more about how to achieve a peaceful early bedtime and get your child sleeping those 10-12 hours though the night that they need, join me in my next toddler sleep masterclass. It’s free, you just have to reserve your spot. Visit TodderSleepMasterclass.com