This is a common complaint, many parents wish their children sleep later in the morning. We in the sleep coaching world normally consider 6:00 AM morning. If your child wakes before that time, we consider that early rising, and it something that we can definitely work on. If your child wakes after 6:00AM, this may just be their natural wakeup time, but there still may be a way to help them sleep in a little bit later. We will first talk about what to do if your child is waking before 6, and then give some tips on what to do if your child wakes after 6 and you would prefer they sleep in a little.
The most common cause of children waking before 6:00 AM is too late of a bedtime. I know it sounds backwards, but if your children are going to sleep too late at night and are overtired, they are more likely to wake early in the morning. When we become overtired, our body produces cortisol, a stress hormone. This makes us more likely to have trouble falling asleep, more likely to wake during the night and more likely to wake earlier in the morning. So the first thing I recommend when dealing with an early riser is to make sure bedtime is not too late. If your child is on one or two naps, they should not be awake for more than 4 – 5 hours between when they wake from their last nap and when they fall asleep at bedtime.
Another reason that children may be waking early in the morning is that they are not napping enough during the day, again leading to them being overtired at bedtime.
We are also in lighter sleep as the night goes on, so we may wake easier later in the night, and it may be harder for us to fall asleep. The same goes for children, and those who do not know how to fall asleep at bedtime, will have even more trouble falling back to sleep early in the morning.
The last common reason I see for early rising is that because children are not napping enough and bedtime needs to be too early. If your child is only taking one short nap and they are exhausted by 6PM, they may actually be getting all the night sleep they need sleeping 6 – 5. In this case, I would work on getting them more or longer naps and see if bedtime can be pushed gradually a little later.
Waking After 6AM
Some children naturally wake at 6 or shortly thereafter, whether you like it or not. My children used to wake around 6:30 every morning, but they gradually started sleeping in later and later. This may happen with your children as well, but if you feel like you really want to try something, here’s something you could try. I would only try this if your child is a generally good sleeper. Children who are well rested can handle variations in their sleep schedule better than those who are overtired. I would start by moving your child’s bedtime later by 5 – 10 minutes every 2 days. This will hopefully avoid your child getting overtired, while starting to push bedtime later and in turn, pushing their wakeup time a little later too.
Do you have questions? Have you tried these tips? I’d love to hear about it, please feel free to comment below!