Early Morning Wake Ups
Updated: Jul 11
Do you have an early bird or are you stuck in a cycle of early morning wake ups?
Before we divide into early wakings, let’s define what an early morning wake up is. An early morning wake up can happen anywhere from 4:30-6:30 am. There are two things to note with wakings. Firstly, if your child is waking up before 4:30/5 am, then that is actually considered a night waking. Secondly, if your child is waking between 6-8 am, sleeping 10-12 hours through the night, then they’re not technically waking up “early” as they have met their total night sleep needs.
So what are the factors that can cause early morning wake ups?
FACTOR #1: GENERAL OVERTIREDNESS
Your little one may have too much awake time in the day overall and not sleeping enough. Naps may need to be redistributed in order for your child to meet their day time sleep needs. Although, during nap transitions some overtiredness is inevitable. Do not try to avoid overtiredness, it is going to happen and that’s okay.
FACTOR #2: BEDTIME IS TOO LATE/AWAKE TOO LONG BEFORE BED
This combines with overtiredness. You do not need to max out on the awake time before bed. In a lot of cases children tend to lean towards average or slightly shorter wake windows.
FACTOR #3: MILESTONES
Your little one may be working on a new skill (sitting, pulling to stand, crawling) causing them to want to practice when they wake up instead of returning to sleep. Check out this blog to learn more about sleep and milestones.
FACTOR #4 NAP TRANSITION + TOO MUCH DAY SLEEP
Some babies wake because they have simply met their sleep needs in 24 hours. When babies get too much sleep during the day, they are less likely to need more night sleep thus causing an early morning waking. It may be time to drop a nap and shift some of their daytime sleep to night time sleep.
FACTOR #5 BEDTIME TOO EARLY
Alternatively to too much awake time, some children aren’t getting enough awake time before bedtime. This causes them to be undertired and not wanting or willing to fall asleep because their bodies have not built up enough sleep pressure. Tweaking their schedule to add more awake time before a nap or bedtime can help build more sleep pressure.
FACTOR #6 SICKNESS OR TEETHING
It can be easy to blame early morning wakings on these two factors; it truly may not be any of the other factors. Remember that these factors will work themselves out over time and regular sleep is right around the corner.
FACTOR #7 PARENTAL HINDRANCES
WHAT?! It can’t be the parents’ fault. Well let’s look at what parental factors are. Snooze button feedings are first; this feeding can land anywhere between 5-6 am and it helps buy a little extra time, but if it’s not then it may be time to drop the feeding (if this feeding is working, KEEP it). Second factor, environment: light exposure, sounds, or even room temperature as in too hot or too cold. Light itself might not be waking your baby, but our circadian rhythm functions off light exposure. Our bodies respond to light via hormones and it tells our body that it is time to wake up; thus the importance of keeping their room and hallway dark. Sound exposure such as coffee grinding or laundry being started could be the culprit. This is an easy fix, check your baby’s sound machine level, remember we want it to be about 65 decibels in their sleep area (crib or bed). Finally, room temperature, depending on the season your little may need to be dressed warmer or cooler. The optimal room temp is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, sleep sacks are a great resource to use to help your little one regulate their body temperature in the early morning hours.
How can we fix early morning wake ups?
Now that we understand what are the possible factors for early morning wake ups; we will learn how to stop the cycle! Logging sleep during naps and bedtime for 7-14 days can help you spot a trend. Is your child on the lower end of sleep needs or higher end?
STEPS TO TAKE TO HELP MITIGATE EARLY MORNING WAKE UPS
You may want to redistribute some of your awake times so they’re not awake for too long or too short before bedtime causing overtiredness or under tiredness.
Same with morning wake up times, make sure their first nap isn’t starting too early. Starting a nap before 8/8:30am will definitely register as night sleep in their brain and perpetuate an early waking cycle.
If you have tweaked the schedule, made sure the room is black at 5am, have loud enough white noise (65dB), and they are dressed appropriately for their environment then it may be time to sleep train through that wake up. Apply your sleep training method of choice and stick with it for about 2 weeks, leaving them until 6:30/7am in their crib.
If all else fails, join our Raising Happy Sleepers membership, where you can be supported through early morning wake ups with daily interaction from our certified sleep consultants.
We’d love for you to become a part of our sleep consultant community! We present infant and child sleep in a way that’s science-backed and research-based, allowing you to learn how to educate families while helping them reach their sleep goals. Check out the rest of our website for more information on our Sleep Consultant Academy.