Tackling that 5am wake up!

Do you find yourself asking “Why does my baby keep waking at 5am every morning” or frantically searching “How to make your baby sleep longer”. If so, you are not alone!

Many parents experience either ongoing or sporadic early waking or early rising as it is also commonly referred to. This is when your baby typically wakes at 5am for a period of time which may span weeks or even months in some cases.

As a mother of three I have experienced this with my own children, one in particular is very sensitive to early rising and if anything is off it will trigger him to wake early every morning until the issue causing the early rising is identified and resolved.

So, what causes early rising and how do you resolve it? If you have been searching the internet for ways to resolve it you may have come to realise that the answer is,… it could quite literally be anything! HOWEVER, if you are seeing it on a regular basis and your child more often then not is waking at 5am it is most likely to be one of the following;

1) Insufficient Daytime Sleep

A key factor when looking at sleep is to understand that “Sleep begets Sleep”. Therefore you want your child to have had the sufficient amount of daytime sleep that they biologically need for their age and stage. If they do not get their sufficient daytime sleep it can ensue a cycle of overtiredness which can result in poorer sleep, overnight waking, and an inability to put themselves back to sleep in the early hours of the morning. Time and time again I work with families who when we increase their child’s daytime sleep their overnight sleep improves.

For babies and toddlers who are still napping you want to ensure that the naps are balanced throughout the day so that there is not a long gap between the end of their last nap and bedtime which could increase the chances of overtiredness. These gaps, or wake windows, will depend on the age of your child.

2) Too Late of a Bedtime

Again, as with the above, putting your child to bed too late and thereby increasing their chances of being overtired and “wired” by bedtime increases the chances of early rising which is contradictory to what you would think that if you put a child to bed later then the later they will sleep in the morning which is untrue. What typically happens is your child will wake at their usual time but will have had less sleep and you will be greeted at 5am by probably, a more cranky child.

3) Too sleepy at bedtime

Some children who are very tired at bedtime, perhaps from too late a bedtime as noted above may have more difficulty putting themselves back to sleep to link that final sleep cycle of the night due to the fact that their melatonin levels are decreasing along with their need for sleep as they may have had a solid 8/9 hours at that stage. To resolve this, I would suggest moving your bedtime earlier and ensuring your child still seems alert at bedtime, this will increase their chances of putting themselves back to sleep at that hour.

4) Environmental

Between 4-5am most houses are at their coldest so in that case make sure that the temperature in your child’s room is optimal and also that they are dressed for bed appropriately both in the summer and winter months to avoid them being too hot or too cold. Check and change the bedding depending on the seasons with regard to togs etc of sleep bags and duvets.

Is the room dark enough? This is particularly important for daytime naps and also for the bright summer evenings and mornings. You want the room to be as dark as you can get it so a good quality blackout blind is needed.

Are there any noises in the house at that time that may wake your child? A dog, someone getting up for work, a newborn sibling waking to feed, the heating coming on etc.

I would always check your child’s environment in the case of early rising to rule out any external factors first.

And finally, it could be the opposite of all of the above, which is where you end up searching for answers online to find that a lot of it is contradictory, perhaps in SOME cases ( as it is generally one of the above) it could be the opposite. Your child may in fact need a slightly later bedtime and less daytime sleep. However this will typically be obvious. For example, if your two year old has been taking a single mid day nap that spans 2-3 hours and all of a sudden you see early rising then you may need to reduce their nap slightly and let them adjust to that for 4-7 days to see if it helps. Or, another common situation may be that early rising is causing all of your naps to be earlier in the day and your day is ending at 6pm every night in order to respect the wake windows for your child’s age, which is then ensuing and ingraining the cycle of early rising. In this case you may need to persevere and push out that first nap of the day each day to move your child’s daytime and in turn bedtime routine later.

If this sounds like you, and you have tried all of the above and feel that you would like to discuss resolving early rising with your child please feel free to contact me and together we can address your child’s sleep.

Vicky x