Early rising! It’s enough to break even the strongest spirit. I mean, who wants to start their day at 4.30am? By 9am you’re already flagging and so is your little one.

Repeated early rising may result in your little one throwing more tantrums and other behavioural problems and melting down by bedtime.

The build up of lack of sleep caused by early rising can also have an impact on night sleep and naps too. So it’s something that can have a knock on effect on many areas of life and sleep.

Before I start delving into the causes of early rising though, I should mention, if you have a very young baby (younger than 6 months), early rising is very common. Your baby’s circadian rhythm is still developing and their night time sleep expectancy is still stretching out, so it may be a case of waiting it out.

But don’t despair, if you’re really struggling with early starts and want to chat, I offer a newborn sleep advice call and we can discuss small ways you can start taking steps towards better sleep. If you’d be interested in booking this call simply drop me an email and let me know how old your baby is and a little bit about the situation.

But for older babies, toddlers and children…

Is bedtime too early?

There is one exception here and that’s if your little one is waking up early because they go to bed early. In this situation they may well be getting enough sleep, their timings just need to shift if you’d rather not have the 5am starts. You might not see an impact on their moods but more on your own. So if you’d rather bring wake up time to 6am or after, then you may need to consider having a later bedtime. But be aware of wake windows and ensure appropriate ones are maintained.

If you’re not sure if bedtime is too early or whether your little one is in fact getting enough sleep, why not download my free Sleep Needs Chart to find out.

Is bedtime too late?

If your little one is going to bed overtired they fall asleep with higher levels of cortisol (this is a hormone you may have heard about when relating to stress). But it works in other ways too. It tells our body we need to stay awake and alert and it is released when we miss our ‘sleepy window’.

In the early hours of the morning, melatonin (the sleepy hormone) is at its lowest, so cortisol starts to suppress it and then your little one wakes up – but earlier than they want or need to. The problem is, it’s really hard to fall back asleep at that point. Melatonin is low and they have a few hours sleep behind them so they may feel absolutely fine in the moment. But as you know, they’ll be flagging just a few hours later.

Are they getting the right amount of day-sleep?

If your little one still naps (and bear in mind the majority of children need some kind of day sleep until at least 3.5 years old), are the naps at the right time and for the right duration? Too much day sleep, or not enough, can both lead to early rising.

The same is true for wake windows. If you’re stretching your little one too far past their age appropriate wake windows this can cause overtiredness. Similarly, if wake windows before bed are too short, your little one may not be falling asleep with enough sleep pressure to see them through the night.

Again, checking my Sleep Needs Chart will help you determine if your little one’s current wake windows are where they need to be.

Could you possibly be exacerbating the problem?

I’m going to be really honest with you here. I quite often hear from parents that when their little one wakes up early they bring them into their bed, give them a phone to watch while mum and dad snooze, or they simply just give up and start the day. All of these things could be reinforcing the early wake. If your little one has something to get up for, then why wouldn’t they?

And I totally get it. You’re exhausted! You just want to lie back down in bed. But what if your little one knew nothing exciting was going to happen. It’s possible they may just go back to sleep because there’s nothing else to do.

Also routinely starting your day when they wake so early is only going to cement their circadian rhythm and it will be all the more harder to get them back to sleep further down the line.

They may be a habitual waker

There’s one simple way to know whether your child is habitually waking early and that’s when they wake at exactly the same time every morning. You could pretty much set your watch by it. If your child wakes at 4.30 one morning, 5.00 the next, 5.45 the next and so on, that’s not habitual waking. But if your little one wakes at 4.45 every morning (maybe with a few minutes exception) you’ve got a habitual waker on your hands.

It’s still possible that some of the other causes I listed above are at play as well so don’t dismiss them, but habitual waking can be more ingrained and governed by your little one’s internal body clock.

The way we approach this is slightly different and you could be looking at a wake-to-sleep approach to solve the problem.

So there you have it. Early waking in a nutshell. If you’re now feeling more confused than ever and you’re just not sure which of these is causing your little one’s early wakes, then why not book a free Discovery Call and we can chat in more detail. This is a no-obligation call where you can tell me more about your little one’s sleep issues and I can tell you how I can help you all get more sleep.

Sounds good? Book here.