EARLY BIRDS: EARLY MORNING WAKE UPS
Is your little one up at the crack of dawn? OR even earlier?!
What do we classify as an early morning wake? And how do we move past this challenge? At Limestone Coast Sleep School we typically see a wake up time of 7am, This is due to the bodies naturally occurring circadian rhythms and wake/sleep drive being biologically programmed to rise at this time of the day. The darkness of night is fading as the sun comes out, our bodies wake hormones are pushing us to become more alert which in turn is inhibiting our sleep hormone from being released. ✖️For a baby, we would consider anytime before 5:30/6am an early wake up. So waking for the day at 5:30am each and everyday of the week, and your child not being tired or able to fall back asleep despite all efforts would be considered an early morning wake. ✖️For younger babies, especially younger than 4 months, hunger can be the cause of an early morning wake, and true hunger would be satisfied with a feed, and then a re-settle back to sleep. Newborn babies especially will wake around 2-3 hourly for feeds overnight. ✖️Babies under the age of 5 months, who also haven’t started solids can experience more frequent early morning wakes - and it is a common theme until they are better established on solids and their night feeds become less frequent. Ensuring a good balance of structured daytime calories is incorporated and maintained allows for both hunger as a trigger for wakes to be reduced, and the establishment of circadian rhythms to suit your morning wake time. ✖️Your child’s sleep environment is also a huge contributing factor we commonly see to their early morning wakes. If light is peeking through the curtains or blinds at 5am, this can trigger a wake up BECAUSE - light prohibits the release of melatonin, or the sleepy hormone! Light = awake. Make the room as dark as possible, if you can read a book, it’s not dark enough for sleep! ✖️Further, distractions or noise can cause more early wakings, especially if you have a partner who wakes early to go to work. For babies under 12 moths we suggest white noise to assist with re-settling and it also works as a buffer to external noise and stimuli! ✖️Finally, if your child’s room temperature is dropping off around 3/4am [usually the coldest part of the night], then this could be triggering a wake up. Remember to dress your child for the coldest part of the night, or if this concerns you enter the room and add another blanket or layer of clothing when you go to bed yourself. ✖️Day sleep can have a huge impact on your child’s ability to stretch a greater duration overnight. If they are having less structured naps, longer morning naps, or not napping at all they will likely wake more frequently. Commonly and overtired baby will wake earlier in the morning, and also if a baby is napping to close to bedtime or right before they settle down for the night, they will wake earlier.
✖️Looking at your naps and awake time frames form your child's morning wake time will also benefit your early morning wakings. A continuation of night sleep can occur if your child's morning nap is too close to their wake time. As per our routines and daily schedules, we ensure that each age specific routine is structured to reduce the risk of this occurring. Try to stretch your baby out a little more each day, slowly by 5-10 minutes if they are showing tired cues, or double check to ensure they aren't just bored! A change of scenery can do wonders!
✖️Not only does a short awake period between the wake time and AM nap cause early wakings, but we can also see a morning nap that is too long in duration find itself re configuring your baby's night sleep to wake earlier and earlier. This works by your baby's body signaling an earlier wake up because it 'knows and expects' that a longer stint of sleep or a long morning nap is coming soon! Our routines cap the morning nap to a shorter duration, in order to knock back enough sleep debt, combat any tiredness and allow for an easier and longer noon nap.
✖️Ensuring your baby is getting the optimal daytime sleep will in turn effect the amount of consolidated night time sleep they get. An overtired baby's bloodstream is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline – the stress hormones which cause them to fight sleep. Over tiredness is usually the major contributing driver behind early morning wake up's, so an earlier bedtime of 6-7pm is beneficial. ✖️From 6 months of age, habitual wake ups can become more apparent. It is due to your child’s sleep rhythms adjusting and learning a time for waking up [remember earlier on how we said about that person waking at 3am to go to work!!]. If they wake up at this time consistently each morning, their body in turn learns to adjust it’s biological clock and triggers a wake up at the same time, over and over again!
✖️A zeitgeber is an external cue that entrains and synchronizes an organisms biological rhythms to the earth’s 24 hour light/dark cycle and 12 month cycle. So, if your baby is happily chatting to themselves at 4am in the morning, there is no crying, or the cry is a small, minimal fuss grizzle – don't interact or intervene! It's amazing what a 20 minute chat to themselves can do to tire our and they can pop themselves back off to sleep.
✖️Getting your child up unfortunately reinforces an early morning rise, and ends up a vicious, repetitive cycle. By slowly moving the early morning wake up by 10-15 minutes each day over the period of 1-2 weeks you can instead reinforce a later wake time. Not getting them up until this time each day will soon teach them to stay in bed longer or expect to self settle back to sleep.
✖️After midnight your baby's melatonin levels begin to drop off, and cortisol levels are rising – hormonally the body is trying to wake up. We see the most restorative and deepest sleep occurring from 6-11pm. At this time your baby is cycling through their deepest sleep of the night, and if they aren't overtired, will likely stay asleep for this period.
✖️If a nice long stint of sleep can be achieved at this time of the night, then sleep will naturally have a knock on effect for the remainder of the night. Babies enter into a much lighter sleep from 12am7am and can be much more easily woken by sounds, light or if they are unable to settle back to sleep.
✖️Ensuring your child is taking nice big, fulfilling feeds throughout the day to reduce the risk of waking early for a milk feed – if over the age of 9 months babies won't typically wake for a feed overnight, but each baby is different, and some may still need a night feed until solids and daytime intake is better established.
✖️If on solids ensuring your baby is taking optimal amounts of tryptophan rich foods in order to neurologically support their sleep. ✖️For children over age of 2.5 years, a sleep trainer clock can assist as a visual aid tool with early morning rising, however, it is not a magic clock! There are steps to guiding your child towards sleeping that little bit longer, and in conjunction with a positive approach towards rewards, ensuring balanced day sleep is managed and bedtimes are appropriate - a full nights sleep isn’t actually too hard to achieve! we have seen huge success with sleep trainer clocks, and continue to use these with our toddler programs.
Ready to combat your early morning wakes? Let's get Your On Track Then! Grab your age appropriate guide here, join the members forum and start sleeping again!