Early Morning Wake-Ups Early morning wake-ups are one of the most common sleep challenges I hear about in the clinic. They can be frustrating and lead to the entire day is off. So what causes them? Developmental leaps, teething, illness, or even travel are just a few that can lead to this sleep challenge. But rest assured, there are a few things you can do to help get you back on track. Adjust the sleep environment- Is there light starting to peek into the room before the desired wake-up time? Try adding some blackout shades. In the early morning hours, your child is in a lighter stage of sleep and if they notice the light they may think it is time to wake up. Sleep association- Has your child grown accustomed to you rocking, feeding, or holding them as they fall asleep? If so, your child is going to depend on similar comfort strategies to fall back to sleep, especially in the early morning hours. Work on a nap and nighttime self-soothing to help your child put themselves to sleep.
Daytime schedule– Your daily schedule may be starting to change so look at what recent changes have occurred. Has your child’s wake windows or naps changed recently? Take a look at your current schedule. Having the right amount of naps and adequate wake windows can make a big difference. If your child is getting too much sleep during the day, they may not need as much overnight. The opposite holds true for not enough daytime sleep. Your child can be overly tired leading to early wake-ups.
Hunger– It is developmentally normal to still have one wake up at night under a year old. If your child is sleeping a long stretch prior to waking and will take a feeding before going back to sleep, let them. If they are not going back to sleep then it may have turned into a habitual wake-up time and now they are expecting the feeding at that time. It may be time to drop a feeding. Now that we know what the cause is, it is time to reset their circadian rhythm. Play around with the schedule. Try and see if you soothe rather than feed. Try taking baby sets by giving your child 5, 10,15 minutes to fall back to sleep before going in to get them up for the morning. Every 5 or 10 minutes in the morning will get your child sleeping a little later every couple of days. If you don’t feel comfortable having your child alone during those early morning wake-ups, try a gentle check-in. It is important to keep the environment dark with as little stimulation as possible. Keep your child in their crib and comfort them to keep them calm. This can be verbal or physical touch. If your child is going through peak separation anxiety stages may do better with verbal reassurance over a monitor rather than having you come into the room. Your baby’s age will play a role in how often you need to check in or how you escalate comfort methods until the desired wake-up time.
Parenting and the ever-changing sleep patterns can be challenging. Your Mainstreet Pediatrics Team is here to help so you and your little one can rest easy!