Early risers can leave us feeling so tired and totally mess with a child’s nap schedule too. Anything before 6am is just in humane right? I had an early riser so I know the pain that comes with this but, once you know the cause and you tackle the problem, you and your child can feel refreshed and start your day at a ‘normal’ hour!
The most common cause of early rising, in nutshell, is over tiredness. This can come in the form of these four top causes:
1. Too late of a bedtime
2. Nap Deprivation
3. Too much time between the end of the afternoon nap and bedtime.
4. Putting child to bed too sleepy at bedtime
In many cases the child does not get enough sleep during the day. Parents often underestimate how much their sleep child really needs and fall into the trap of thinking they are not sleepy by bedtime which leads them to keeping them up too late. I actual fact, children often appear to be wide awake at bedtime when they are actually over-tired. When a sleep window is missed, the brain thinks ‘the lights are still on, there’s lots going on, I need to wake up!’ and hormones are released such as cortisol which is like a shot of adrenaline. This will ‘wire’ your child and give off the illusion that that are far to awake to go to sleep. The longer you keep them up, the more cortisol is released and the tougher it becomes to settle them.
Do not be fooled by those alert little ones either. They are very good at hiding their sleepy signs and you really need to keep an eye on the clock with these guys. Know what the average sleep requirements are for your child’s age and use them as a close guide. Also, be aware of the average wakeful windows for their age- how long a stretch they can go between sleeps. This might not be as long as your child would have you think!
Many parents allow their child to drop their nap altogether around the age of 2.5-3yrs. This can often be due to fitting in with the daycare routine or it can be parents feeling that their child no longer needs the nap. If you drop the nap and then find a few months down the line that you have an early riser or he struggles to settle at bedtime or he is up and down all night – the chances are he really does still need that nap.
Often babies in the 6-12 month bracket and possibly more so in the 9-12 month section when they are on a two nap schedule, are not at their best in the late afternoon. If the gap between the afternoon nap and bedtime is too large, the child gets over-tired and cortisol gets in the way. To avoid this, an emergency catnap of up to 30 minutes can really do the trick. This can be as late as about 4pm as long as the child is awake by 4.30pm and that is based on bedtime being at about 7pm.
Finally, one of my top tips for keeping your toddler in bed until morning is to introduce a day/night clock. There are many variations out there but it needs to be very simple and clear for your toddler to understand. My favourite is this one which you can find on my recommended products page:
It simply shows the rabbit in bed when your child should be in bed and when rabbit wakes up, your child is allowed to get up. Children can grasp this from around 21 months but you can introduce the clock sooner so they can start to get familiar with it. The golden rule with this one is: NEVER get your child up or allow them to start their day before rabbit is up. If you do, they will never take the clock seriously again.
Overcoming early rising is the best feeling in the world. Not only do you get the full night’s sleep you need without having to sacrifice your evening and go to bed at the same time as your child but also your child benefits greatly from the sleep too. Your baby’s routine and nap schedule will work better if she doesn’t start her day too early and sleep is vital to child brain development too. So fixing an issue like early rising really is a must for all the family.
Sleep tight x