Preventing Early Morning Wake Ups

 In Early Mornings

Early morning wake ups are something that many children and parents struggle with. Firstly, these are something that will come and go for all children. How parents handle these early mornings will determine whether or not they last.

For me, mornings one of my most favorite parts of the day. But just because some of us enjoy the calm of the morning at 5:00 doesn’t mean that y’all want to start your day at this time, nor should young children. I consider  anything before 6:00 am too early for your child to start their day. So you will want to make 6:00 am your minimum time that you will get baby up for the day, and hold to that minimum. This is key, because getting them up at 5:45 one morning, leads to 5:30 the next and before you know it you’ve got a baby who habitually wakes at 5:00 am.

Around 5:00 am the sleepy hormone melatonin is no longer in our systems. We spend more time in these wee hours in REM sleep. REM sleep is a much lighter sleep, so if there is anything bugging your baby at this time they will struggle to return to sleep. But when handled appropriately, these early mornings can be short lived.

There are some factors you can check to ensure your little one has the best opportunity to sleep longer in the mornings.

Environmental disruptions.

Lights, sunlight, bus route, or even your husband going off to work- if he is anything like mine, who is an elephant that thinks he’s a mouse.

Darken it up. 

Even the slightest light exposure can be enough to rouse your little ones in that lighter morning sleep. Install black out blinds or hang dark sheets so that your little one’s room can remain dark no matter what the light source outside. Making sure that your child’s room is as dark at 4:00-6:00 am as it is at 12:00am. 

White noise.

White noise machines can be a very effective tool to help drown out environmental noise disruptions.


The body temperature drops around 4:00 AM so some babies will wake up because they are cold. A sleep sack or sleep bag is a wonderful way to make sure your baby is not waking up because he is cold.

Are they getting the right amount of sleep.

Sleep begets sleep. The better your child sleeps during the day the better they will sleep at night. If your child is overtired at bedtime they will have a harder time getting to sleep and their sleep will be more fragmented. This results in more waking through the night and early morning.

Overtired at bedtime.

Your child’s ability to stay awake for a specific amount of time will be ever changing as they grow & develop. Finding that sweet spot for time awake can be tricky sometimes. When you do find it, little ones settle into sleep easily and have an easier time sleeping through the night. Check the wake window times blow to help find your child’s age appropriate wake time. If you are having a hard time bridging the gap between last nap and bedtime or if your child is no longer napping, you can always move bedtime earlier by 30 minutes. I know that sounds like the opposite of what you should do but it often helps.  This is not an overnight success, it usually takes about a week or so before you will start to see improvement.

Your Child’s Age
Wake  Time
Newborn (birth – 10 weeks)
45 – 60 Minutes
10 Weeks – 3.5 Months
1.5 Hours
3.5 Months – 5 Months
1.5 – 2 Hours
5 Months – 7 Months
2.5 – 3 Hours
8 Months – 13 Months
3 – 4 Hours
14 Months – 3 Years
5 – 6 Hours
Not enough/too much day sleep.

Check to ensure you child is getting the age appropriate amount of daytime sleep. Every child’s sleep needs are a little different, so you may see that your child needs a little less or a little more than the recommended amount, and that’s OK. However if you see that you child’s daytime sleep is way off then it is likely contributing to those early mornings. Too much daytime sleep and your child may genuinely be awake and ready to start their day at 5:00 am. Too little daytime sleep will result in over-tiredness, causing a child to have a much more restless sleep.

How much is the right amount? Check the chart below. Your child’s daytime sleep should fall within a half an hour of the recommended amount.

Your Child’s Age
Recommended Daytime Sleep
Newborn (birth – 10 weeks)
14-17 Hours of total sleep/day
10 Weeks – 3.5 Months
5+ Hours
3.5 Months – 5 Months
3 – 4.5 Hours
5 Months – 7 Months
3 – 3.5 Hours
8 Months – 13 Months
1-3 Hours
14 Months – 3 Years
0-3 Hours
Too sleepy at bedtime.

There is a ton of literature out there that will advise to put a baby down drowsy but awake. However, that drowsy state for some babies can be the first stage of sleep. Therefore, when they wake through the night and into the early morning between sleep cycles (we all do this) they will have a hard time linking to the next sleep cycle without the same help they had at bedtime. Be sure that your child isn’t drowsy going down at bedtime or becoming sleepy during their bedtime routine. Sometimes this means leaving a light on through the entire routine until after he goes down into bed.

Habit Wakings.

There are a few factors that typically contribute to habit early morning wakings. Early morning feeding, sunlight, and attention or communication from parents are the most common. If your baby is used to being fed first thing in the morning, or pulled into bed with you that is enough to trigger their body clock to go off at that same time each morning like clockwork. It takes roughly 3 days to create a new habit. So instead of going to your baby as soon as he wakes early in the morning, wait….. 10 – 15 minutes or whatever your comfortable with. Then go in, get them up, start your day and then offer a feed. The next day you will be waiting 10 to 15 minutes longer than the day before. Do this until you arrive at the much more appropriate hour of 6:00 am or later.

If you have gone through of the above, and it’s been longer than two weeks with early morning wake ups still persisting, lets connect. Contact me to set up your free 15 minute evaluation call.

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