top of page

6 Steps to Handling Your Child’s Early Morning Wakes

Even if your child sleeps through the night, you likely don’t want them waking earlier than 6:00 a.m. And I’m here to tell you, they don’t have to! There are a few things you can do to help extend their nights to a more appropriate time to wake up for the day—honestly, anything earlier than 6:00 a.m. I still consider nighttime and treat it as such.

When my oldest daughter was a baby, she was a chronic early morning waker – she was a great sleeper but she had a pattern of early morning wakes. While I am now a sleep consultant, I know there are things we can do to curb those early morning wakings.

Going through these six steps will help move you closer to identifying the cause of your child’s early mornings and help you extend those nights to a more appropriate time – read on for all the troubleshooting!

Check The Environment.

There are three things you’ll want to assess when it comes to your child’s sleep environment:

  1. The level of darkness – you’ll want to make sure it is totally and completely dark in your child’s nursery or bedroom. You can test out the level of darkness by going into the room, turning off the lights, closing the door, and letting your eyes adjust. If you can see your hand in front of your face, it’s not dark enough. You also shouldn’t see the light creeping in from behind any windows or from under the door. Lights from appliances – like a monitor, clock, or humidifier – should be covered with black electrical tape, as these can be distracting and cause wakings. Since exposure to light and darkness stimulates our circadian rhythm, it is imperative that the room is dark! Make sure you have a solid blackout solution in place – either blackout curtains, window covers, or something like the SlumberPod (use code YOURSLEEPSTORY for 5% off of your purchase) can help!

  2. The noise level – you’ll want to make sure you’re using white noise that plays continuously throughout the night. White noise will help block out any exterior noises that might otherwise wake your child. If someone is up and moving around the house during those early morning hours, that can definitely stimulate a waking, so make sure if someone else has to be up for work, they are making as little noise as possible. Don’t be afraid to turn up the volume on the white noise. I recommend having the level of sound set at 55-60 decibels. You can use a decibel meter app to see how loud it is playing; place the phone in your child’s sleep space and adjust the volume on the sound machine until the meter app reads between 50 and 65 decibels. This will ensure that the noise level is not safe for your child's ears yet loud enough to block out external sounds.

  3. The room temperature – it’s recommended that your child’s room be kept between 18-21 degrees. You can adjust your child’s clothing as needed to keep them cozy. There is a dip in body temperature around 4:00 a.m., so if your little one is chilled, that may cause them to wake up. As long as their body temperature feels comfortable around their head and neck, they are likely just fine. Don’t pay too much attention to cold fingers or toes, as extremities are not a good indicator of actual body temperature.

Check The Amount of Daily Sleep.

It may be time to consider capping or dropping a nap. I know you’ve probably heard the saying, “Never wake a sleeping baby,” but please do if a nap is affecting your child’s nighttime sleep! Nighttime sleep should always be your priority because it is the most restorative – it’s when all the magic happens! Your child should be getting 11-12 hours of sleep at night, and if they’re having early morning wakes because they’re getting too much sleep during the day, you'll want to adjust their schedule to shift their sleep over to the night.

Check The Sleep Schedule.

You will also want to be mindful that as your child grows and develops, their sleep needs will change, too! Newborns are sleepy little things and spend quite a bit of time snoozing because of how fast their little brains are developing. Over time, they’ll be able to handle more time awake before needing to sleep again. So, consider stretching their awake times if you feel it might be time! Or, if they’re ready for two naps instead of three, consider putting them on a set schedule. Grab my free "Sleep Needs Chart" to check how sleep needs decrease as your child gets older! Gran the chart here.

Check The Sleep Skills.

A few other questions to consider:

  1. Is your child getting drowsy at all during the bedtime routine?

  2. Are you putting them in their crib or bed fully awake?

  3. Are they using a pacifier? Is it time to remove it?

  4. Would introducing a lovey at this time (12 months+) be helpful?

  5. Do you need to consider using a sleep training method?

If your child doesn’t yet have fully independent sleep skills, they may not be able to fall back asleep on their own if they do wake early in the morning. And, you needing to go in to help them at that time of day is just going to be more stimulating for them. After all, you are their favourite person! There simply isn’t enough sleep pressure left over at that time of morning for them to fall back asleep, especially with the excitement of mom or dad needing to come in to help.

Check Your Current Morning Routine.

Sometimes, parents may inadvertently be reinforcing the early morning wakes, without even realizing it.

Here are a few more things to consider:

  1. Is your child being exposed to blue light within an hour of waking? Screen time can definitely reinforce early morning wakes!

  2. Are they receiving a feeding or meal when they wake early? You’ll want to push the first feeding or meal to a set time. I recommend waiting to offer food or a bottle 5-10 minutes after waking so this doesn’t become a reinforced behaviour.

  3. Is there some preferred activity taking place that is inadvertently reinforcing the early wake-up? (i.e cuddling in bed with a parent or playing watching their favourite show).

Did any of those ring a bell? Time to make some changes and see if that helps your little one sleep a little later.

Check The Predictability.

Lastly, there are a few things to think about when it comes to your predictability:

  1. How frequently does this early morning waking occur? Every morning? Some mornings? Just occasionally?

  2. Is it happening sporadically – 4:30 a.m. one day, then 5:15 the next? This is actually a good sign!

  3. Is it happening around the same time each morning – consistently at the same time, whether that be, 5:25/5:30ish, or 4:45/4:50am? Try the Wake-to-Sleep method!

If an earlier morning wake-up is jumping all over the place, this is a great sign as your child's body hasn't turned waking up into a habit. I would first try the suggestions mentioned earlier and give your child some time to push their wake out! Wake-ups that are VERY consistent in timing each morning have likely turned into habitual wake-ups. The previously mentioned suggestions are also very important to implement FIRST. However, you may need to continue onto this step and try "The Wake-to-Sleep method."

The Wake-to-Sleep method essentially resets where your child is at in their sleep cycle. Going in and rousing them a bit 30-60 minutes before their normal early morning wake time will hopefully get them into another sleep cycle and extend their sleep. All you need to do is gently touch them. Wait until you hear them take a deep breath or rollover. You don’t want them to wake them up fully! This can be tricky to do successfully, but give it a good week and see if it helps lengthen their nights a bit more.

Wrapping Up

I know that was a lot! Early mornings are tricky, but by going through this list, you should be able to find your solution to your child’s early mornings. Remember that early morning wakes take time. You won't fix the issue overnight, so adjust your mindset to reflect that it may take some trial and error before you find the unique solution for your child! If you are ready to put the early wake-ups behind you, consider booking a 30-minute support call! These calls are for babies and children who have been sleep-trained but have a habit of early morning wakes! Check out my client's review after one support call!

"Our son was constantly waking between 5-6am ready for the day and up every couple hours through the night wanting to nurse. I booked a 30-minute support call, and Alyssa suggested just a few small changes, and now my 8-month-old is sleeping 7:30-7:30 and only waking once in the night!! Couldn’t be happier!!"

If this all feels overwhelming to you, and you are ready to put early mornings behind you. Let's chat! On a free sleep evaluation call, we can discuss the best support option for you!


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page