Kids wake up early. Fact.
But do you have to start the day with them right away, even if the clock says 5:30am?
I usually recommend that parents should not officially start the day until
at least 6am. This is for several reasons:
1.It ensures your child has received adequate night sleep
2.If your child is still napping it can help ensure the naps occur during ideal sleeping times
3.No one likes getting up before 6am (well, I do actually, but that’s another story ;)
So, if you have an early riser, here are some ways to help them stay in bed a little longer, and maybe even get back to sleep until a more reasonable time:
1.Get on the right schedule. None of these other steps will work if your child isn’t getting enough sleep, or their best sleep. If bedtime is too late (overtired) or too early (under-tired), early wake-ups are almost inevitable. This might also mean a review of the nap schedule if baby/toddler is still napping.
2.Keep the room dark. If you don’t have room-darkening shades, try some tinfoil around the edges of the window. Check the room for any other lights that could be in your child’s line of vision and potentially keeping them awake.
3.Keep your child in their crib until at least 3 years of age. This can be a tough pill to swallow, and sometimes toddlers do need to break out of their crib before this, but if you can it’s best to wait. Sometimes when kids are transitioning out of their crib too soon or without proper guidance it can lead to early wake-ups and actually getting out of bed which makes this whole going-back-to-sleep thing a lot more challenging!
4.Invest in a wake-up clock. My favourites are the OK to Wake clock and the Gro Clock because they can stay dark all night (have to turn off the blue back-light on the Gro Clock in the settings) but will light up when it’s okay to start the day. If you are using this with your child, you must also do steps 4-7 or it might not work!
5.Have a family meeting. Everyone should be present at this meeting and you can all talk about how much you love sleep and the importance of staying in bed until the sun comes up (or light turns on the clock or mommy/daddy come to get you, etc.). This is where you lay out the ground rules for what’s to come.
Speaking of which.. have a plan for how you will deal with the early wake-ups (for example, silently returning them back to their room) and communicate that to your child so they know what’s coming if the rules aren’t followed.
6.Create a sleep rules chart. Call it whatever you want, but create some sleep rules or routine that everyone must follow. Get it down on a piece of paper or Bristol Board and have your child decorate it for extra buy-in to this whole idea. You can include your child’s bedtime routine on this chart, but the most important thing to have on here is that after saying ‘Goodnight’ and turning out the lights, everyone stays in bed until the morning comes.
7.Do a wake-up “announcement” when it’s actually time to start the day. Perhaps your child has slept through their usual earlier wake-up time or perhaps you’ve been dealing with the earlier rising, but now it’s 6am so it’s okay to start the day. When this time comes, go to your child’s room and say, “Good Morning!” in your best Oprah voice, turn on the lights, open the blinds and start the day. This will help re-set their body clocks for when daytime really begins.
8.Stay consistent. If you’re constantly changing things up to find the right thing that will work, your child will be confused as to what he/she is expected to do. Make a plan, communicate that plan in ways your child will understand, and follow-through until you see results. This will happen more quickly if you can stay consistent.
If you have any questions about whether your child is on the right schedule or you would like more specific ways you can help your child stay in bed/asleep until a more appropriate time in the morning, reach out for a free sleep check-up!
Ashley Cooley is a birth, baby and sleep specialist living in Dartmouth, NS with her husband and their three girls.