Is your little one sleeping through the night, but waking up at 4:00 A.M. ready to start their day? Early morning wakings can be stubborn and exhausting! Personally, I would much rather experience a midnight waking than waking up at 4:00 A.M.
Here are my top 5 tips to eliminate those stubborn early morning wakings:
Avoid Early Morning Light Exposure
Is light peeking into your little one’s room very early in the morning? Because your baby or toddler is in the lightest stage of sleep during these early morning hours, the light can be very stimulating. If a brief waking happens, he or she will be more likely to fall back asleep if the sleep environment is super dark. I highly recommend the use of blackout curtains and no nightlights until 2.5 years old.
Overtired at Bedtime
If you keep your baby or toddler up later, they will naturally sleep longer, right? This is actually quite opposite. More times than not, overtiredness at bedtime is contributing the early morning waking. Sleep begets sleep, so I would focus on moving your little’s bedtime earlier--even 15 minutes can make a huge difference!
Too Much Daytime Sleep is Happening
Another component is the total amount of daytime sleep your baby or toddler is getting. If your little one is sleeping too much during the day, they might be completely refreshed by 4:00-5:00 A.M. A good way to decipher between overtiredness at bedtime and too much daytime sleep is by examining your little one’s behaviors. Is he or she taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep at night and happily playing in their crib/bed? Is he or she awake at 5:00 A.M. singing songs or playing with their lovey? Content behaviors = possibly too much daytime sleep. On the contrary, if your little one is crying at bedtime and waking up upset at 4:00-5:00 A.M., these behaviors point to overtiredness.
Parent is Responding Too Early
Parents can inadvertently reinforce an early morning waking by getting their little one up right away. When you get your baby out of bed and expose them to sunlight or artificial light in your household, this will reset their circadian rhythm for the day. Instead, I encourage you to not signal it is morning time until 6:00 A.M. If you need to go into your baby's or toddler’s room before this time, keep the lights off and stimulation to a minimum. If your little one is still in the swaddling or wearable blanket stage, a product like the Swaddle Sleeves Pod or the Swaddle Sleeves Sack may also help to comfort and extend their sleep.
First Nap is Too Early
Lastly, the early morning waking can become habitual by allowing your baby or toddler to nap too early in the day. Oftentimes, if the nap is too early, your little one’s body will see it as a continuation of nighttime sleep. They become used to banking on those continued hours. Aim for an age-appropriate nap schedule. If your little one is starting to act tired prior to their scheduled naptime, stepping outside or playing with a new toy can be helpful to extend that wake window.
It is important to remember that early morning wakings can be very stubborn. If you are navigating this sleep disturbance and have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. I would love to chat with you!