My last blog was all about early rising, what it is and some quick and easy fixes to try if your bub is waking earlier than ideal. You might recall that early waking can arise from a disturbance in any of the body processes that control sleep. But what happens when you’ve exhausted all of those quick fix solutions – you’ve adjusted for light, noise, temperature and hunger – but your little one is still waking early 😩 what now!?
What I do know is that the longer your child has been getting up early, generally, the longer it will take to resolve. Basically it involves resetting their biological clock, which can take a bit of time with heaps of consistency. Usually you are looking at a minimum of about 3 weeks if your child is under 12 months, sometimes more, especially if they are older.
So if your bub is still waking early, let’s have a look at some of the more complex contributors that you can address before it gets to this scary point! Today I want to share with you four of the more complex troubleshooting options that you can explore before accepting that you may just have an early bird on your hands 😅
When your baby is overtired, more stress hormones are present in their system, which includes cortisol – an awake hormone! This means that short or broken sleep during the day and overnight can build up and be the driving force behind an early wake. Short or broken sleep throughout the day can result in their sleep needs, that are appropriate for their age, not being met. Which in turn can cause that extra cortisol hormone to build up, and lead to more prevalent early rising. Cortisol is also the hormone that is responsible for rousing us awake at the end of a sleep cycle, so more of this in their little bodies will obviously lead to early rising!
My troubleshooting suggestion here is to be flexible and allow your child to have an earlier bedtime if they need it. Also, keep a close eye on their awake time before bed, as an extended awake period before bed will just lead to a more unsettled sleep! If you think your bub is struggling with overtiredness, I would encourage you to have a read of my blog: Overstimulation 101 – All you need to know!
This is a big (and tricky) one! If they require something else externally that is not present when they wake up in the early hours, it will be much harder for them to get back to sleep without support. You may be happy with feeding them back to sleep at this point or assisting in other ways for now as it is still working and gives you a mum equivalent of a sleep in! 🤪 This is in fact a really helpful way some families will choose to avoid an early rise and reset the body clock to begin with! However, there may come a time when even this no longer works and topped with increased awake homes on board, it is much more likely that they are going to just declare themselves awake for the day. 😎
Self-settling isn’t an easy part of the puzzle though, I really recognise that. It really is a long term solution for a short term goal, but I guarantee that it is worth it in the long run. Remember that you don’t need to completely change all of your sleep associations to implement self-settling as a sleep strategy for your little one! I really suggest considering reaching out for some assistance from Sleep Thrive Grow to help you and your child to gain the confidence to self- settle. Or, you can do some further reading on self-settling in my Essential Sleep Guides.
3. TOO MUCH/TOO LITTLE DAY SLEEP
There is only so much sleep our little ones can have in a 24 hour period. There are also suggested awake times that aim to support a build up of sleep pressure in the right places to encourage a wake up after 6am. Just like too little day sleep can cause overtiredness and lead to early waking, too much day sleep can equally result in not enough sleep pressure, and…you guessed it! Early waking!! It is truly a tricky balance to navigate!
Each and everyone one of us has a total amount of sleep we actually need to function properly each day. Of course there is no one size fits all and everyone has a sweet spot, some people can survive on a little sleep, while others need more sleep in a 24 hour period (I’m an 8 hours a night kinda gal). Does this news overwhelm you a little, and make you feel like you don’t know what the right amount of sleep for your baby is? I’m here to help! Havea look at this Instagram post on “how much day sleep” to see the average day requirements for bubs of all ages, or download my Free Awake Times and Nap e-Book to get the info on awake windows, total day sleep needs, and total day and night sleep times.
4. FIRST NAP OF THE DAY TOO EARLY OR TOO LONG
You know what one thing that can cement an early wake up? An early nap! Early wake > early nap > early bed > aaannnd repeat! 🤪 For many babies, I have found that a big sleep in the morning to compensate for an early wake can begin to encourage that early rising routine. An early nap, or a first nap that is too long, can result in their little bodies learning that when they wake up early, they can still catch up on any missed sleep as soon as they want. This can even lead to them waking earlier and earlier in order to have enough sleep pressure for a nice big morning nap 🤦♀️
I suggest that after an early wake, you try to keep the morning as boring as possible in an effort to reduce the amount of stimulation they’re receiving. Keep them in their cot as long as they will tolerate it (or at least until 6am). Then you can consider some low stimulating activities such as a slow early walk, or pottering around the house/garden with them on your hip. For babies younger than 6 months, you could try a short 10-15 minute bridging power nap as a temporary solution to ease that sleep pressure a little while you work towards pushing back the timing for their first full nap of the day. Your aim here is really to look at their awake times and try to slowly push out that morning nap to start at the time that you would be aiming for if they didn’t wake early. Something I love to do is to design nap plans to help with early wakes and unsettled sleep routines, so please reach out to chat if you would like a little extra guidance!
At the end of the day, I want you to remember that you are so much more than how your baby sleeps
This phase of early waking that you’re experiencing will be exhausting, but I know you can make it out the otherside. You are your baby’s biggest supporter, and if you are committed to helping them develop a sleep routine that suits both of you best, then you are already on the right track!
I know there was a lot of information in both blogs about early rising, so if you would like to talk it through, I’m always here to help. Check out my website for all the ways I can help you at www.sleepthrivegrow.com 💕