Do you have a little noodle that refuses to sleep past the crack of dawn? We understand! Unfortunately, early wake ups are often the beginning of a vicious cycle of overtiredness, daytime crankiness, and routines that fly out the window. Don’t despair though. Like any other sleep issue, there is a good reason WHY your little noodle is up before the sun peeks over the horizon.
Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons, and see if we can help keep your little babes in bed until a more respectable hour of the day.
The Anatomy of an Early Wake Up Call
The first thing we need to do is establish the “why” of the situation. When solving any baby sleep issues, we break it down into four different areas; emotional, mental, physical and external. Then we will address what triggers can cause the sleep issue and how to prevent them.
Babies are not born with the ability to process their emotions – this develops over the course of time and with each new experience. They are often unable to process or understand why they are experiencing a particular emotion. Especially, if they are not at a stage where they can talk about it yet, they may get “stuck” in that emotion.
Oftentimes, emotional processing takes place in the form of dreams, which are more common in the early hours of the day. This can then cause them to wake up too early, and that habit may continue until they are able to eventually process that emotion. As parents, the best course of action to help them get through this stage is through lots of reassurance and understanding. When they have a sense of comfort and safety, it will help them be able to develop emotional maturity.
The learning curve for young children is extraordinary; they are learning at such an intense rate that it can eventually begin to affect their sleep. Like emotional processing, learning how to process this intense development happens during their sleep. This can then lead to a period of waking early so they can put their new skills into practice – not so fun when that practicing starts at 4:00 in the morning!
Giving them the opportunity to practice their new skills and information during the day, will alleviate that early wake-up call. Just be careful to not OVER stimulate them during the day. Overstimulation is also a trigger for sleepless nights and early mornings. Babies and toddlers need balance in their days. They benefit from a balance of both entertainments as well as quiet, alone time to process their day and any new skills they learned.
One of the most common causes of that early wakeup call around 4 or 5 in the morning is, believe it or not, overtiredness! It might seem strange that being tired would cause a little one to wake up too early, but it does. Many parents are guilty of trying to keep their young one up later, in the hopes that they will sleep in later – unfortunately, this does the OPPOSITE!
When you settle them down and put them to bed earlier in the evening, you bypass that last adrenalin surge of the day. This means that they will gradually sleep later, and as an added bonus, they will be getting more restful sleep throughout the night.
Hunger is another massive trigger of early mornings. An empty stomach can bring a little one roaring to life looking for sustenance at some crazy hours. Because processed carbs turn into instant energy, they aren’t suitable for long-term sustenance. The last meal of the day before bed needs to be a bit more balanced. It should include a mixture of protein and complex carbs, which will help keep their little tummies happy much longer, meaning you might even be able to sleep past 6:00!
Some children are just more sensitive to light and noise than others. If your little one happens to be one of those where the smallest sound or the earliest sunrise wakes them up, congratulations, you have the easiest fix of all! Investing in some great blackout shades and utilizing a white noise machine in their rooms will help to not only get them to sleep faster but keep them asleep much longer.
Sleep issues can be one of the most significant sources of frustration to both new parents as well as seasoned parents alike. If you are still struggling to find that perfect solution to your own child’s sleep issue, we can help! Give us a call, and we will work with you to get your baby on an eat/awake/sleep schedule, which is vitally important for healthy sleep habits.