Can Early Rising Be Fixed? Is it possible to stop a child waking at 5am every day? Or is it just something you have to accept and adjust your life accordingly?
Having worked with children since 1996, I am pretty confident that there is no need to just accept that you have "an early -riser", even if your child has the genetic predisposition of being a "lark". It may take a bit of hard work over a few days or even a couple of weeks, but you will be able to adjust your child's wake-up time so that you don't feel like you've been up half the day when it's only 9am!
Firstly, I consider Early Rising to be waking up regularly before 6.00am. But for some people it will be anything before 7.00am.
Secondly, this process will only work for your baby or child if they can fall asleep independently and sleep through the night from bedtime to morning without waking up and disturbing you. If they won't or can't fall asleep on their own and if they wake up and need help getting back to sleep in the night, you need to sort this out before you can tackle the early rising, as the 5am wake-up is just another night-wake, and trying this reset could make their night-sleep even worse. If this is you and your child, drop me a message and we can sort everything out.
If you are using this to do a reset when the clocks go back at the end of October, my advise is to start it on the Thursday before they change so that by Sunday morning, your child should sleep later.
#1 - The Aim: Get them REALLY over-tired
Spend 3 days getting your toddler or child totally over-tired by cutting back their nap and keeping them up late. It won't make any difference after one or two nights but by the fourth morning, they will so exhausted that they will sleep past their usual wake-up time. You then gradually give them back their sleep and that is what sets the new wake-up time! Easy!
If you're doing this with a baby under 12 months, the theory is the same, but you just need to cut the sleep down a bit more gently and take a little longer doing it.
There is a theory that over-tiredness causes early-rising, so you should put an early-riser to bed earlier. I don't agree with this. All this does is stops your child from being over-tired but it doesn't stop them from waking early. If anything, it will make them wake even earlier.
#2 - The Method: Reset for 1-3 year-olds
Cut back naps by 50% for 12-18 month old's, 75% for 1.5-3 year old's.
Put them to bed 1 hour later than usual for 12-18 month old's, 1.5 hours later for 11.5-3 year old's.
Try to time naps around journeys, but if you can’t and they fall asleep on the move, wake them up at your destination.
Expect them to be cranky and vile by the end of the second day, and to become "devil spawn" by the third
DO NOT GIVE UP AFTER 2 DAYS AS NOTHING WILL CHANGE!
After the third night, they should sleep at least an hour later than usual.
On day 4, increase naps by 10-15 minutes each, and make bedtime 15 minutes earlier. Repeat this each day or so, until you feel that your child is getting almost enough sleep, then keep these new timings for a few days before increasing the sleep one more time.
Ta-da! Reset complete!
#3 - The Method: Reset for children over 3 years old
Thursday Night – Bedtime 2.5-3 hours later than usual
Instead of giving your child dinner at dinner time, give them a snack then give them a bath. Get them dressed then go out for dinner. Take plenty of toys/games and keep them entertained by bringing the different toys/games out one at a time. Travel home with the windows down in the car and the music up or walk home so that they don’t fall asleep on the way. When you get home, do the usual bath (yes, two baths! The first was to wake them up a bit) and bedtime routine and put them to bed 2-3 hours later than usual. The older they are, generally, the later you will need to keep them up.
Don’t expect them to sleep any later the next morning, but do expect them to be a bit over-tired and grumpy by the afternoon. If your child usually has a nap, cut it down by 75%.
Friday Night – Bedtime 2-2.5 hours later than usual
This similar to the first night, so have a snack instead of dinner, then go out to play! Take the torches to the park and have some fun. When you get home, sit down to a nice family meal (you may need to keep the heating down low to keep them awake). Afterwards give them a really long bath (keep adding hot water), and get ready for bed as usual. Put them to bed 2-2.5 hours later than usual depending on their age.
Saturday Night – Bedtime 1.5-2 hours later than usual
Do the usual bedtime routine, just slightly later than usual. Your child should be absolutely exhausted by now and by the third morning they will sleep later. Their body clock has now been reset! Hooray!
For the next few days, maintain a bedtime 30-45 minutes later than you would normally and then on Wednesday or Thursday, go back to their usual bedtime. This helps to stop them falling back to their spring/summer/early wake-up time.
#4 - Babies under 12 months:
This is more complicated as it could be to do with routine, feeding, attachment or something else.
Please don’t try either of the methods above.
If your baby is waking early, please call me on 07977 462252 and we can discuss what you need to do as babies under 12 months will be waking early for different reasons and we will need to look at their daily routine to work out why they are waking. Once I have worked out the cause of the early-rising, I will be able to tell you how to fix it.
#5 - Be patient and consistent
Remember that all children are different and some may need a little longer to make this adjustments, so if you've not seen a later wake-up after 3 nights, keep going for a couple more.
You are going to have a couple of days of a tired and grumpy child, but don't let that stop you from completing the process. A few grumpy days is far better than months of you feeling exhausted with the ridiculously early mornings that you're currently having.
If you find this all a bit overwhelming, please reach out to me and I can talk you through it. It is tried and tested and has be used for the last 15 years. However, I know that the thought of doing it can be scary, so I am here to help you and support you if you need me. Please give me a call by clicking on the phone button below!