As parents of young children most of us forfeit the right to a lie in. Long gone are the days of snoozing till 10am! For most of us getting woken up at 6/7am becomes the norm however if you have a child who wakes even earlier and your day is starting at 5am (or earlier) everyday this can become a seriously difficult to cope with.
The first thing you need to consider is are there any external factors that could be waking your child? For instance could they be too cold or too hot? Could the early summer sunrise by waking them? Could early morning noise be disturbing them?
If the answer is yes to any of these then that’s great as these can all be fixed. If it’s too light in the morning then use black out blinds/curtains to prevent light coming in to the room. If there are lots of early morning noises possibly waking your child (seagulls, bin men, early commuters etc) then use a white noise machine throughout the night to block external noises. If your child is too cold add an extra layer of clothing or reduce their clothing during the summer months. Make sure they are in the correct gro-bag for the time of year. If your child uses a duvet but always kicks it off then you can invest in a duvet from the Gro company that zips to a fitted sheet so that they cannot kick it off.
If you have a child over about 3 years of age you can use a Gro clock with them. These clocks work by you programming them to the time that you think is acceptable for your child to be up. At night the clock displays stars and when the clock comes to the desired time a sunshine appears on the clock. The theory is that your child learns that she mustn’t get up until the clock says it’s morning, and may eventually not just stay in bed until that time, but actually stay asleep too. It is important to be realistic about the goals you set with the clock though. For instance if you’re child always wakes at 5am it would be unrealistic to think that they will be happy to stay in bed till 7am just because the clock is set for then so you may want to aim for 6am. If they get used to waking at 6am you can begin to gradually increase the time on the clock to a later time.
Another method than can work well with older children is a reward system. To fully understand the concept of achieving a goal to gain a reward your child will most likely be 3 or 4 years. The idea being that in order to gain a reward your child must stay in bed till the desired time. You can use either a star chart or pom poms/marbles in a jar. When the jar is full or the star chart completed your child will receive a reward. This may a small toy/book etc or could be a special trip.
Another factor that can affect early rising is the time your child goes to bed. If your child goes to bed too early then this will cause them to wake early. If your child is in a habit of regularly falling asleep at 5.30/6pm you may need to push their bedtime back by an hour. Do this gradually by pushing their bedtime back by 15 minutes every few days until you get to the desired time.
Equally if your child is going to bed too late this can also cause early rising. The reason for this is if your child is over tired by the time they are falling asleep they will have produced more adrenalin to cope with this and the adrenalin in their system will cause them to wake earlier. To move their bedtime to an earlier time gradually put them to bed earlier by 15 minutes every few days until you get to the desired time.
Daytime naps are another factor with early waking. If your child is not getting enough quality naptime then they will be overtired come bedtime and will wake more frequently at night and earlier in the morning. To ensure your child is getting good quality naps you need to ensure they are linking their sleep cycles otherwise they will end up catnapping and not getting the full nap they need. See my article on solving nap problems ****
If your child always wakes at the same time consistently you can try using the ‘wake to sleep’ method. This involves gently rousing your child about 30 minutes before the time they usually wake and then letting them fall back to sleep. This may seem crazy but the idea here is to break the pattern of their sleep cycles. By waking them before their usual wake time you then allow them to go back to a deep sleep and sleep past the point at which they usually wake.
Finally if all fails take comfort in the fact that early rising is nearly always a phase that children grow out of fairly quickly. If you can get any more sleep by bringing them in with you for cuddles in the morning then everyone is a winner. If you don’t fancy that then put some toys/books in their cot when they wake and let them have some quiet play time. If you need any more advice on solving early wake ups please get in touch as every child is different and so the solutions are very much tailored to the individual child.