The why’s and the first steps we can do as parents that can make all the difference!
Is your baby waking up at 4 or 5am, happy and ready to start the day?🥳 While this might be a routine that works well for parents who are also early birds, it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. So before we accept this as just the norm in your household 🤪😴, I love to do a bit of investigating!
Early waking can arise from a disturbance in one, or both of the body processes that control sleep.
These body processes are known as sleep/wake homeostasis (sleep pressure) and the circadian biological clock (circadian rhythm). During night sleeping, the highest level of sleep drive/pressure and the sleepy hormone melatonin occurs during the first half of the night. As the night progresses, sleep pressure will start to reduce, melatonin levels take a dip, while the awake hormone cortisol will begin to naturally rise. This hormone is essential for us to wake for the day.
The quicker fixes are linked to your baby’s circadian rhythm. Hang out for part two in our next blog if you have these things covered!👌
Our circadian rhythm begins to mature from about 3 months of age, but it can take up to 6 months to fully develop. The biological clock is regulated by cues and these include light (the most powerful), food, and social interaction. This means an extra feed when not needed (or lack of a feed if it is needed), a little too much noise or chat, or a light change from the sun or a nightlight into their bedroom, might be enough to begin to stir your little one fully awake, ready to start their day!
So, what can be done to fix this early waking, quick smart!?
Here are four easy fix solutions that can make a massive difference if your baby has begun to wake earlier than their usual wake up time…
I know, sleep consultants all harp on about the room being nice and dark! But it is for a good reason! Remember me saying about light being a factor that sets our biological clock? This is why!
Light exposure of any sort from gaps around the windows, an open door, or that light on top of the baby monitor, could stimulate your child enough to wake them up. Your best bet is to do your best to ensure their room is as dark as it was when they went to bed. It is also beneficial to consider removing any nightlights (unless you’ve got a toddler who is scared of the dark), or use some blutac or electrical tape to cover that little light on the monitor.
If you’re finding that the curtains in your baby’s room aren’t doing the job, definitely look into investing in some block out blinds, or investigate some products specifically designed for blacking out little ones’ rooms. Sleepy Sundays has a black out film that sticks to the static of the windows. Use Sleep Thrive Grow at checkout and receive a discount!
It really is true that any sound from inside or outside the house could be enough to trigger your baby to stir awake before they’re ready. Outside, it could be something like birds, traffic or the garbage truck on Wednesday mornings. Inside, you could be struggling with someone in the house waking early for the gym or having a shower to start their day.
Your best bet to masking all those pesky noises in the early hours of the morning would be to use some white noise as a constant background noise for their sleep. Using a white noise machine that’s set at an appropriate decibel level can really help to disguise any noises and sounds coming from in and around the house overnight.
Core body temp drops at around 3am and the coldest part of the night comes after that time. You might be finding bub sleeping with their bum in the air with their little arms tucked under them, which is a key sign that they are cold! Or they could have flushed cheeks or feel a little sweaty, indicating that they’re too warm. If your bub is feeling too hot or cold, this could cause them to wake prematurely.
The solution here is to ensure you are using the correct TOG (Thermal Overall Grade) sleeping bag to help regulate their temperature. Sleeping bags should be coupled with an appropriate amount of clothing layers, and a room temperature of between 18-22 degrees. Sleeping bag manufacturers always provide great recommendations to guide you with what TOG is best for your situation.
I recommend utilising a thermometer that is close to the height of their mattress to give you an accurate reading of the room temperature (knowing that the temperatures shown on baby monitors are notoriously dodgy). You might need to utilise an oil heater during winter, or an air conditioner during summer to get your bub’s room set at that perfect temperature to couple with the sleeping bag and layers to keep them comfy all night long. If you can keep bub and their room a consistent temperature from 3am onwards, then you are in with a better chance of having them sleep through to that 6-7am mark!
Some babies may still need a feed in the early hours of the morning to help them stay asleep for longer, but other babies might just take it if offered. Food is a cue for setting the biological clock, which could mean that if your bub is used to being fed in the early hours of the morning, even if they aren’t genuinely hungry, they will naturally stir awake for a feed, then struggle to get back into sleep. This also goes for moving breakfast earlier and earlier!
If bub doesn’t seem hungry when they wake, then perhaps it’s time to try a different resettling method other than a feed in the early morning. Or if you’re little one isn’t feeding overnight anymore, perhaps a review into their diet during the day to ensure they aren’t waking due to hunger in the morning! By ruling out any hunger issues, be it hunger or lack thereof, you can be assured that their early rising isn’t indeed due to this.
Do any of these factors seem to affect your baby’s early rising sleep routine?
We do know that the longer your child has been getting up early, generally, the longer it may take to resolve. Basically, it involves resetting the biological clock, which can take a bit of time with heaps of consistency. You are usually looking at up to 3 weeks to reset if your child is under 12 months, sometimes more, especially if they are older.
If you think you might be stuck in a pattern of early rising, and none of these quick fixes seem to work, please reach out to book a free chat. We can do a stocktake of your situation, and brainstorm some ideas to move forward and get out of this phase together! Also, look out for my next blog on more complex contributors to early rising, and troubleshooting options.