When is early too early?
It’s natural for children to wake up early in the morning, their built-in daily rhythm means that their natural time to wake up is around 6:30/7:00 in the morning. Any wake-ups before 6/6:15 we would consider too early.
Although it is instinctive for children to wake up early in the morning and some children simply born as morning roosters, waking up at 4/5 am is too early by anyone’s standard.
What can cause it and what can you do?
The sleeping environment can make a big difference. We want to consider the following:
- Too much light – we want to create complete darkness
- Too hot or too cold – we want to pay close attention to the child’s environment and room temperature
- Noise – environmental sounds can wake the child from the light sleep that children sleep in the early morning. White noise can help in those instances
Over or under fatigue
Going to bed late and waking up early are linked. Extreme tiredness due to long waking hours the night before or little sleep during the day causes the child to produce cortisol (stress hormone), which makes the child’s sleep light, especially in the morning and has more difficulty falling back to sleep after waking up between sleep cycles in the early morning hours.
Too little tiredness due to too much sleep in the daytime means that your child doesn’t need more sleep when it wakes up in the early morning hours.
If your child wakes up happy and ready to start the day, it’s probably had enough sleep, but if it wakes up cranky, it probably needs more sleep.
Extended morning nap too early can become an extension of the night-sleep in the child’s mind and keep the child waking up early, because the child learns to make up for the sleep it lost in the morning during the morning nap.
How does the child fall asleep?
Children who need a lot of help falling asleep at bedtime and going back to sleep between sleep cycles at night may find it especially difficult to fall back asleep between sleep cycles in the early morning. At this time, the body is getting ready to wake up, the amount of melatonin has decreased while the cortisol amount has increased, so it is biologically more difficult to sleep at this time. In addition, the child has perhaps even slept for 10 hours so the need for sleep is therefore much less than earlier in the night. Supporting the child in learning to fall asleep on its own and to fall asleep again between sleep cycles on its own makes it easier for the child to connect sleep cycles in the morning and sleep longer.
Lighting, food and social interaction reset the body-clock and teach your child that it’s daytime. Try to avoid these things as long as possible before 6:30 am.
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