Does the Early Bird Really Catch the Worm?


Or is the early bird just tired?

Parents of early morning risers undergo a unique form of torture in my book. Wake me up every few hours during the night, keep me up until 3am, make me sleep on the floor! But PLEASE do not make me get out of bed before 6am! There are parents out there (I’m talking to you!) that undergo this every. single. morning.

There’s no amount of caffeine in the world could make me a functional human being!

If you’re over waking up with the sun, look no further and start problem solving here:

The Environment

Light is the stealer of all sleep. The circadian rhythm is your baby’s internal biological clock that controls the timing of your baby’s body, including bedtime and wake time. Your baby’s circadian rhythm is designed to reset to light exposure, and in the morning when melatonin levels are the lowest, your baby will be particularly sensitive to light exposure. So, when your child sleeps I want it to be DARK. Like can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. Black out blinds and curtains are often pretty, but don’t always do the trick. Can you see light coming in from the edges? What about illuminating out from the top? Not dark enough!

Too Much or Too Little Day Time Sleep

Your baby might be waking up early every morning simply because they aren’t tired anymore! Your baby’s body has a unique daily sleep need. This refers to how much sleep their body needs in a 24 hour period. If they’re getting too much during the day, this gets ticked off of their night time sleep. If you’re having trouble with early mornings, track their total day sleep for a few days. Are they sleeping too much? On the flip side, your baby may not be getting enough sleep! Sleep begets sleep. Being overtired results in less sleep overall. Check out the science behind this below.

The Last Wake Window of the Day is Too Long

This one is always tricky. If my baby stays up longer, they’ll be more tired and fall asleep faster and sleep late, right? Wrong. If your baby stays up late and the last wake window of the day is too long, this results in your baby becoming overtired. When their little body is pushed past their bed time, a fight or flight response kicks in. Adrenaline and cortisol begin to rise giving them a boost of energy to keep the body awake. This makes going to sleep and staying asleep extremely difficult even though your baby is absolutely exhausted. These elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the body also make connecting sleep cycles throughout the night extremely difficult, especially during those early morning hours when you baby’s sleep drive is naturally lower.

You’re Reinforcing It

It’s 5am, I toss and turn and have a choice to make, Do I go back to sleep? Or do I get up and have a nice warm cup of coffee and hang out with a friend? For your baby, they make this decision every morning. If getting up and having a nice warm bottle and hanging out with BFF Mom is an option, they’re going to pick option 2 EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Your early riser needs to learn that there’s no party happening at 5am and the restaurant is still closed!

The First Nap of the Day is Too Early

If your baby wakes at 5am and then goes down for a nap at 7am, they are “making up for” their lost night time sleep during the day. By allowing that early nap, your child’s schedule will shift to wake up early and expect that early morning nap. By allowing the nap, you’re reinforcing the early morning. To prevent this, have a set morning nap time that is the age appropriate wake window from the DESIRED morning wake time, not the actual wake time. Remember, if your child is getting the age appropriate amount of daytime sleep, you want to shoot for 11-12 hours of TOTAL time in the crib each night. So select a wake time that is at least 11 hours from bedtime and stick with it!

Early morning wakings take time and are often the most difficult sleep problem to fix. If you need assistance, please email me to set up personalized support. But with the right plan, I think you’ll both quickly learn that the well-rested bird catches way more worms!

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