Your toddler the early riser

Maybe you thought, hoped, wished, or dreamed that your zombie days were over when Baby started sleeping through the night, but many parents have a second sleepy challenge to face in the second year: early rising toddlers. If your toddler is waking up in the wee hours of the morning and trying to start his day too soon, chances are that your day is getting an unwelcome jumpstart as well.

Why so early?

This might be hard to hear, but waking up early is actually pretty typical of children this age. It could just be that Baby‘s internal clock says it’s time to get up at 6 a.m., so that’s when he leaps out of bed. If he seems energetic and refreshed despite the early hour, you’re looking at a typical case of Early Bird Syndrome.

On the other hand, if your toddler tends to crash a few hours after waking up or takes unusually long naps during the day, it could be that he isn&;t getting enough sleep at night. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but if Baby goes to bed too late, he can wake up early and feel extra tired throughout the day. Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per night, so if Baby is groggy during the day, take another look at his bedtime.

A third option (and the most fixable one) is that something is waking Baby up in the morning, which is what gives him the great idea to come wake you up!

Is this going to be forever?

Um…maybe. If there’s nothing in particular causing Baby to wake up when he does, and he is functioning well during the day, you might just have an early riser on your hands, at least until the teenage years hit.

There are, however, a few things that could be waking Baby up early. His aforementioned bedtime could be too early or too late, he could be sick or hungry, he could be waking up because of outside noises or light, or there could be developmental changes (teething, growth spurts) or life changes (sleeping without pacifier, sleeping alone) making it difficult for him to sleep.

What can you do to help?

  • Bedtime is too early or too late: If Baby‘s bedtime is too early, causing him to naturally wake up a little early without tiredness, try putting him to bed a little later. If he is waking up tired or becomes tired within an hour or two, set his bedtime a little earlier. You can also adjust nap times a little until you find just the right sleep scheduling if needed.
  • Sickness or hunger: If Baby finds themselves hungry in the morning, you can try giving him a snack before he goes to bed. When he is sick, you can try child-safe medicine or keeping him in your room so you can quickly attend to him when he wakes up because of a symptom. 
  • Outside noises or light: If Baby is waking up because he hears cars outside or the toilet flush in the house, you might try putting a white noise machine in his room to help control volume levels and help him sleep. For light, you can try blackout curtains (or just regular curtains).
  • Ch-ch-changes: If there are developmental or life changes that are disturbing Baby‘s sleep, just hold tight and understand that this sleep pattern is temporary and will stop when Baby passes through this phase of life, whether it’s a growth spurt or just getting used to a new situation.

If the problem is made worse by Baby refusing to go back to bed when you tell him that it’s not time to get up yet, there are a few strategies for coping. One especially useful one is setting an alarm for the time you want him to get up that turns on a light or music when it’s really morning. If he gets up before that, treat it just like he had woken up in the middle of the night; don’t let it slide just because it’s close to morning. You can go check on him, but leave him with a firm “see you in the morning,” and make a big deal about waking him up when it really is morning.

When you do get these rise-and-shine morning visits from Baby, try to look on the bright side: he is in a great spot to make you breakfast in bed one of these days!

  • “How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?” National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation. Accessed June 5, 2017.

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