Children who wake up too early, causes and solutions
Mommy, I’m awake! Too many parents all too often here this sound in the house at 6am in the morning, on a Saturday. Not a pretty picture. There are very few of us who relish getting SUCH an early start in the weekend.
The problem is quite simple; your little boy or girl wants the day to start, and you definitely do not. However, we all know how stubborn toddlers can be, so in many families it is the parent who draws the short straw. After all, there are few things so difficult as to convince a toddler to get back in bed once you hear their bare feet pattering around your bed. Sometimes you may try to postpone waking up by letting your child climb in your bed. This often backfires the next weekend as it can work as an incentive to get out of bed even earlier; after all, this is an even more fun start of the day! And you can say goodbye to your extra sleep.
This article takes a look at the causes of children waking up before they should and what can be done about it. There’s an explanation for virtually everything in life. Almost everything happens for a reason, unfortunately it is not always easy to figure out what that is. It is worthwhile trying different things though, as taking away one of the main causes away can be a quick fix compared to ‘teaching’ your child to stay in bed longer. The following are the main reasons we have identified why some children wake up earlier than necessary:
- Your toddler might still take naps where that is no longer needed. For many toddlers, waking up early is a tell tale sign to put an end to the siesta. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t. Even kids who no longer need a nap, often still enjoy a few hours of sleep during the day. If they also still fall asleep at the regular time, the connection to the early mornings is not always made. So for toddlers who still take naps during the day, the solution often is to simply discontinue the naps, or at least limiting them to for instance 30 minutes. A lot of parents are quite surprised that their child does just fine without a nap.
- It is too light in the room. Some children are very sensitive to changes in the amount of light. Especially in summer when the sun comes up early, they respond by waking up. Don’t be fooled by the fact that your child does sleep well in the daytime (by taking naps). It is usually the turn from dark to light that forms the trigger. Often this is not picked up by parents when it comes to their second or third child, as these kids might sleep in the same room with the same curtains as their older siblings, who perhaps did not have this sensitivity to light. The solution is simple; just purchase some black-out curtains that shield out the light completely.
- The room is chilly. At night the temperature of your child will naturally drop, but the temperature of the surroundings does as well. Around 5.15-5.30 in the morning it is usually at its coldest. Without noticing, your child might be triggered by the slight drop in temperature which causes him or her to wake up. A simple trick is to dress your toddler in warmer pyjamas. An (extra) pair of socks might also help. We would not recommend an electric blanket as this might be too warm.
- Your child wakes up from outside sounds. It could be the birds singing, the neighbour leaving early for work. Such sounds may give your boy or girl the impression that the day has already started. To shut out as much sound as possible it is worth checking whether any small windows might be open (especially in summer) which can be closed to reduce the noise.
- The biological clock of your child is not set at the right time. This means your child is programmed to wake up too early. Sleep trainers (alarm clocks used to teach your child when it is day time) are often a great way to adjust your child to a different time. More on those later!
If it is not one of the above, it could simply be that your child is a morning person. Just like with adults, you can also have a distinction between morning and evening persons with children. If your child is a morning person, this makes it more difficult (but not impossible!) to make sure he or she stays in bed longer. Even if your child ends up lying in bed awake, he or she will still get some rest this way, with the added benefit of a bit of lie-in for you!