Are you currently dealing with early rising with your little one? Is your baby, toddler or pre-schooler looking to start their day at 5 am every day? Are you totally confused and at a loss on how to get out of this cycle and desperately seeking advice? Then read on! I’m going to bring you through the main reasons early rising occurs and what you can do to try to get on top of it.
I believe that there are 3 main causes of early rising when it comes to babies, toddlers and small children;
Overtiredness is one of the main contributing factors when it comes to early rising. Why though? Overtiredness keeps the hormone cortisol is high in your child’s body. Cortisol is the fight, flight & fright hormone and has similar effects on the body as adrenaline would. It can cause children to appear jumpy, excitable and hyper. Cortisol and melatonin, the sleepy hormone, do not like each other. In fact, when cortisol is high in the body it can impede melatonin doing its job to help initiate and maintain sleep. As such during light sleep phases, which is what is happening around 5 am when early rising is most prominent, this overtiredness could be drawing your child out of sleep.
Balance in napping and respect for the wake periods that suit your child. I see lots of children who are having the majority of their day time sleep in the morning. This will reinforce the cycle of early waking and leave your child less rested in the 2nd half of the day and in the run into bedtime. Naps that are longest in the middle or 2nd half of the day are more physically restorative for your child whereas morning naps are more mentally restorative. Also if children are napping for 1 nap a day and this is taking place in the morning then there is too long a gap to bedtime and overtiredness will occur. For babies who are on a two nap schedule leave a gap of no more than 4-4.5 hours to bedtime to help with this. Use an early bedtime while you are trying to get on top of things as this will allow your little one to get on top of the sleep debt that they are carrying and goes a long way to bring them to a rested state.
Lots of things! Think about your home at that time of the day. Is it quiet and warm? Is someone starting their day at that time and making a little noise? Is the heat flicking on and potentially drawing your child out of sleep. Is their room dark enough? Melatonin needs darkness to do its job and if there are night lights in your child's room these could actually be drawing them out of sleep – especially those with blue or white light (orange tends to not impact as much). Are you leaving their door ajar? These things could be contributing factors to Early Rising. Sit down with the people in your life and look at the situation. What can be changed and tweaked? Could someone take their shower the night before perhaps? Could the heat go on a little earlier? Ticking boxes of doubt in a systematic way will help you figure out if external factors are the problem?
This can be a very hard one for parents to hear as a potential issue when it comes to Early Rising as really the answer lies with you. Does something happen every morning at 5 am when your child wakes that could be reinforcing the wake? Do they always get a bottle at that time? Do they always get brought into the parental bed even after trying to get them to stay in their cot? Do they start their day and get to watch cartoons when they go downstairs? Even just starting their day at that time can be reinforcing for them.
The key sits with you. Again, sit down and identify what the issue is and make a plan to resolve it. Don’t knee jerk though! Do your research in terms of what way you are going to handle the changes you are about to make. Remember, this is all your little one knows. They don’t know anything else and will be frustrated with the changes. By being organised and having a plan you are more likely to follow through with change and be consistent.
Early Rising can be a difficult one to solve. It can take lots and lots of consistency to change to see things shift even a little bit. This is not to put you off working on it. I am being honest so that I can keep your expectations real. Very often it will take weeks and months of consistency to see your child start to wake that little bit closer to 6 am or beyond.
Erica Hargaden is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with her private practice Babogue. She is the creator of the online sleep programme the Sleep Series and also a Mum of three. For more information check out her website www.babogue.com, her social media channels @babogue_sleep on Instagram and @baboguesleepsolutions on Facebook. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 86 8260887