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Early Rising

Early Rising – 

The most common question I get asked about, second only to night waking!

Waking before 6am is too early for everyone and it throws off your child’s entire daytime schedule.  


In some cases, the early rising has an easy fix – maybe it is too light in the room at the wee hours.  Possibly the birdies are singing their songs at your child’s window.  These issues can be fixed with room darkening shades or black out curtains.  Ideally the room should be as dark at 6am as it is at 9pm.  A white noise machine in your child’s room is a simple solution to the external noises.

Sleep Learning

But it usually isn’t so easy!  When your child stirs, go to her quickly and try to get her back to sleep before she screams herself awake.  Try to soothe her back to sleep while still in her crib, without picking her up.  If she doesn’t go back to sleep again, and she likely won’t at first, do not turn on the lights or get her out of the crib until 6am.  If you do, the early rising will continue and possibly the waking will get earlier and earlier.

If she hasn’t gone back to sleep after a bit of reassurance from you – then either stay in her room and have minimal interaction (sit in the chair with your eyes closed) or if you being there encourages her to be more awake you can leave the room and check on her at intervals that you feel comfortable with (every 10 or 15mins perhaps).   When it is finally 6am, leave the room (if you haven’t already) and  come back after a minute, to start your morning routine.  Be dramatic and emphasize that it is morning time.

Toddler Sleep Clock

If your child is over 2yo you could get a children’s alarm clock.  There are several types available – sun/moon, bunny sleeping/bunny awake, light changes colors …  at the time you set it to change.  The clock my girls have in their room turns green at the time I have set for them.  Our sleep manners include ‘do not get out of bed before your clock turns green’.  If you are not 200% consistent with the clock then your child will not take it seriously either.  Like above, you go to them quickly when they wake and say:  ‘sweetie, your clock isn’t green it’s not morning/wakie time’.  

Napping with an early riser can be tricky as too early of a morning nap can ingrain the early rising!  If she is over 6mo the recommendation is no morning nap before 8am.   If she is over 9mo, no morning nap before 9am.  If she is on 1 nap, no nap before 12noon.  Otherwise she will be overtired at bedtime and the cycle continues.

Here are the four causes of Early Rising:

1) Too late of a bedtime - for the 1st 5 years of a child's life bedtime is usually between 7-8pm!

2) Not enough napping - too late of a bedtime and skipped or short naps will create, early rising, more night waking, poor quality of sleep and an overtired, fussy child. Well napped children sleep better at night too! Not logical but sooo true.

3) Too long between end of afternoon nap and bedtime - in order to catch the 7-8pm bedtime, you need to monitor how long of a sleep window there is between the end of afternoon/last nap and bedtime. There are general guidelines that are appropriate for most children. Under 6 months of age the last nap should end about 4.30/5pm. From 6-9 months most still need that short catnap before bed and can usually handle a 2-3hr window to bedtime. From 9 to 18 months (if sleeping through the night and napping well) most can handle a 4hr window to bedtime. From 2 yrs. we usually recommend that the nap end by 3-3.30 to preserve bedtime.

4) Going to bed too drowsy - if they can't put themselves to sleep without help at bedtime, the easiest time of the day for independent sleep ... how are they going to be able to put themselves back to sleep without your help at 4am (the hardest time of the day)? Start by teaching independent sleep at bedtime.

You must be 100% consistent in your response with your early bird  ... as early rising takes weeks of consistency and patience for the behavior to change.

If you have been 100% consistent in your response and are doing everything above correctly, then I would look at a medical reason for the rising. Sleep apnea is frequently overlooked in children and can cause a very stubborn early waking.  Speak to your child’s doctor if you suspect any medical reasons for the waking.

I wish you and your family sweet dreams and later mornings!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Photo Credit: Classic Kids Photography Newport Beach, By: Jenn


  1. Hard to Believe: This Keeps Your Baby Awake At Night

    Dear Sleepless Mother,

    It “waits” for you to put your baby to sleep

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    Because it knows the next thing you do opesn the gates…...and invites midnight wakefulness into your baby’s sensitive brain and body

    I’m talking about this simple habit

    Could one simple habit increase the risk of your baby waking up in the middle of the 87%? “It’s like setting a midnight fire alarm in his brain”, one study revealed

    The worst part is that you keep doing it ……it’s part of your routine……and yet it’s wrecking your little one’s sleep

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