Struggling with Early Morning Wakings?

Katie Austin Feb22 Bb 16

Is your child waking up at 5am? Maybe even 4am?

Those early morning wakings are SO frustrating and down right exhausting as a parent. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

First, let’s define what early morning wakings actually are. Typically, I consider it to be a child waking up before 6am. The exception to this is if your child has a very early bedtime. If your baby is going to bed at 6pm, waking up in the 5 o’clock hour may be appropriate. But if they are getting less than 11 hours of overnight sleep, we will consider it an early morning wake up.

So, what can you do about it?

Before we make any schedule adjustments, let’s check 2 things in your child’s environment.

How dark is your child’s room? We want it to be SUPER dark. When the days are long and the sun comes up early, the smallest amount of light can wake up your child. A simple and inexpensive way to darken their room is to tape black garbage bags or aluminum foil over their windows. If you are looking for a more permanent and/or aesthetically pleasing solution, I recommend BlackoutEZ Blinds (

Next, is there any environmental noise that could be waking your child up? It could be anything– your alarm clock going off, a truck that drives down the street at the same time every day, or even an airplane or train. If you are not already using one, I highly recommend using a white noise machine. This can drown out any background noise that could be waking them up early.

You have the dark room and the sound machine, now what?

Let’s look at your child’s schedule. Early morning wakings are typically caused by either over or under-tiredness. But which is it?

Undertiredness causes early morning wakings because your child is getting too much daytime sleep and not enough awake time, resulting in them not being able to sleep that long, wonderful stretch at night anymore. Building up enough sleep pressure for night time sleep is so important.

How much daytime sleep should your child get? While every baby is different, here is a general guideline:

3-6months: 4-6 hours

6-9months: 3-4.5 hours

9-12months: 3-4 hours

12-18months: 3 hours

Start by shortening naps by 10-15 minutes. Try this for 3-7 days before making any other changes. You may also need to move bedtime slightly later to have a long enough awake window before bed.

Could overtiredness be the cause of your child’s early wake ups?

An overtired child’s body will release an excess of cortisol. This is important because cortisol is a stimulant that impacts melatonin (our sleepy hormone–we need that!).

If your child typically takes short naps (overtired), this can cause their early morning wakings because they will have too much cortisol at bedtime and not enough melatonin to sleep all night.

Start with working on improving daytime sleep as well as making sure their last awake window before bed isn’t too long.

Early mornings can be so challenging and if you find yourself still struggling, please reach out and schedule a free 15 minute discovery call with us. We would love to discuss your specific sleep situation and challenges and see how our services can benefit you and your family!

Sleep Philosophy
My sleep philosophy is that all children (and mommas!) need restful sleep, and so my goal is to help children learn independent sleep skills so that they can fall asleep on their own and stay asleep through the night. I will help develop a customized sleep plan that aligns with the family’s wishes.