How To Deal With The Dreaded 5am Wake Ups
5am is early.
And I don’t just mean a little bit early. It is a crazy early time to start your day if you don’t have to be up for a specific reason.
Sometimes our little ones just don’t get how early 5am is!
They can often be ready to start their day long before we are. This is especially hard on you if you have been up in the night already.
So, what can you do?
Are you destined to rise before the sun forevermore?
Luckily, the answer to that question is NO. You don’t have to put up with 5am wake ups.
Here’s what you can do to combat them:
What Is Causing The Early Wake Ups?
There could be a number of things that are causing your little one to wake far earlier than they should. Let’s explore some of them now:
A long, restorative morning nap is likely to reinforce early rising. If your child gets into the habit of napping for a long time in the morning, it may start to interfere with what time their body clock is naturally wired to wake up.
You may find that they wake earlier and earlier in the morning as a result of that long morning nap. This is because the long morning nap is trying to compensate for the short fall at night which in turn compounds the problem.
If your child is getting too much sleep during the day, they are then not going to be tired enough to sleep for a long period at night especially in the early morning. If you are in the toddler stage, then it might be time to consider dropping or capping the day nap and allowing your child to get the bulk of their sleep over night.
If this sounds like you, check out my blog on how to go about ditching the day nap.
Are They Hungry?
Many parents wonder if their little one is hungry when they wake so early in the morning. So, the natural instinct is to feed them.
Unfortunately, this can simply reinforce the habit.
Most babies over 6-7 months (especially those who are established on solids) who wake around 5am are less likely to be hungry. Usually the drop in melatonin levels and the lighter state of sleep they're in is likely to be the cause of wakefulness.
It sounds strange, but sometimes being overtired can actually cause your baby to wake earlier in the morning. So a later bedtime does not fix the problem in fact it can make it worse.
When babies are overtired, it makes it harder for them to sink into deep restorative sleep. That is because their body begins to produce cortisol (the stress hormone) which in turn inhibits the natural production of Melatonin. When their melatonin levels drop off in the morning, the cortisol left in their body wakes them up super early.
Too Much Light
If your baby’s room is not dark enough, it can impact their sleep patterns. We know that the sleep hormone, Melatonin, is released in response to darkness. Theoretically, the darker the room, the more melatonin is released.
It stands to reason that if your baby’s room has too much light seeping on, it can inhibit the amount of melatonin produced, causing 5am wake ups.
Too Much Comfort
To your baby, you are their sun, moon and stars all rolled into one. They pretty much think that the light shines out of you and they want to spend as much time with you as humanely possible.
So, if you offer them a feed, rock them back to sleep or let them co sleep with you, you are likely going to reinforce the early wake up. Try to put yourself in their shoes.....any support or comfort that's on offer becomes incredibly appealing especially in the early hours.
Too much noise
Make sure there aren't any external noises causing your baby to wake early. Does your partner get up early for work and make noises in the house? Do you live in a busy street with neighbours heading off to work early? Try using White Noise in your baby's room to help drown out those unwanted noises.
What Can You Do To Prevent 5am Wake Ups?
Thankfully, you are not cursed to have 5am wake ups until your baby reaches the teenage years! There are plenty of things that can help your baby to sleep longer in the morning.
Some of these are:
● Assessing what the problem is and coming up with a solution that is practical.
● Keep their room as dark as possible by using blackout blinds.
● If your baby is still taking two sleeps a day, ensure that your baby’s morning nap is not too long.
● Establish a good bedtime routine that starts at an appropriate time for the age of your child. Your little one needs approximately 12-14 hours of sleep per day until around 2.5 years of age.
● Consider if it is time to ditch the day nap to ensure your child is not under tired at bedtime. If your child can’t do without a day nap yet, then monitor the length of it. At times, it is suitable to wake a sleeping baby
● Encourage your child to self settle so that they can return to sleep should they wake too early. A comfort blanket can be an excellent tool for this.
● Seek advice from a Sleep Consultant like myself. I can help you get to the bottom of what is causing the early wake ups and offer practical solutions to help you correct it. Simply contact me to get started.
As a parent, you knew you weren’t going to get much chance for a sleep in. But 5am is way too early for you to have to be up. If you need any advice on how to combat the 5am wakeups, then don’t hesitate to get in touch!