The topic of early rising is a common concern for many parents, and we've all faced the challenges that come with our little ones waking up before the sun. While some may attribute it to their child simply being an "early bird," it's crucial to understand that early wakes are often routine-related or influenced by external factors that have become habits. In this blog post, we'll explore these factors and discuss effective strategies to combat early rising.
Factors to Consider:
External Noises: External disturbances such as birds, traffic, or noisy neighbours can disrupt your child's sleep. Implementing consistent white noise throughout their sleep can help mask these sounds, with the volume set to a soothing level.
Room Temperature: Ensure your child is comfortable by maintaining an appropriate room temperature. Sudden drops in temperature during the early hours can lead to wake-ups. Dress them in a suitable sleeping bag based on the room temperature.
Sleep Timing: Pay attention to your child's sleep schedule and avoid over or under-tiredness. Adjust the awake window before bedtime according to their age. Remember that a later bedtime doesn't necessarily mean a longer sleep.
Hunger: If your little one wakes due to hunger, handle it calmly and minimally. Keep lights off, avoid social interaction, and treat it like a middle-of-the-night feed to prevent cortisol levels from rising.
Routine: Resist the temptation to adjust the first nap earlier to counter early waking. When your little one wakes early it’s easy to assume they would need their first nap earlier to avoid overtiredness. But in fact an early nap can encourage those early wakes, either your little one starts to consolidate their first nap as a part of their night time sleep and waking early in anticipation for that early nap. Or we bring their day forward, bedtime comes forward and we get stuck in a vicious cycle.
Your Response Matters! Now this is usually where we find early rising becomes habitual and sticks! We’ve all been there and are guilty of either trying everything to get just one more hours sleep or throwing in the towel and starting the day! But how we respond to our little one at these early wakes will determine if they resettle or we reset their internal body clocks. Also known as our circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms are set by 3 things – food, light and social interaction. It’s important we consider this when we respond to our child at 5am. If we are to just get our little one up, turn the lights or tv on, and start our day, this in itself is enough to encourage these wake ups every.single.day!! It works exactly the same for us adults who set our alarms for work of a weekday but on a weekend we still habitually wake at this time regardless if we set an alarm or not. It’s because out circadian rhythm is set this way. It unfortunately also works the same way if you have a kid free weekend & are used to being woken at 6am by the little cherubs, even though the kids aren’t there, you will usually wake up at this time!
So instead we encourage you to resettle your little one to return to sleep until your ideal morning start time. We recommend keeping little ones in bed until 6am at the earliest. However resettling can take some time and practice. Less is more when resettling in the early hours of the morning as their sleepy hormones are fading away. Treat each wake before 6am as if it were the middle of the night, keep it nice and dark and your settling reassuring but brief.
*For infants under six months, a short bridging nap around 7 am can help maintain the daily routine. However, be cautious with bridging naps for older infants, as they may disrupt regular sleep patterns.
Your little one might not return to sleep straight away or at all for that morning and it can take persisting with this for a few weeks but the more you encourage a resettle the quicker they will start sleeping in later. Once you change something, we want to give it time to stick. As frustrating as that is, these pesky early mornings need consistency to shift 💜
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