4 Reasons your baby is waking so early

troubleshooting Aug 09, 2021

    My name is Mica. I am a certified sleep consultant and founder of Rested Mama, Happy Baby. I help families on their journey to establish healthy sleep habits and get the whole family sleeping again! I don’t know if I was biologically built this way, but one thing I could never get used to was being an early riser. However, even though many of you might love to rise with the sun, you probably prefer that it happens without your sweet baby also waking at 5 am.  Yet, you might find yourself with an early riser or an earlier riser.

    Early morning wakings are one of the most common sleep issues families face.  Don’t get me wrong; all babies do love early mornings.  Their biological clocks truly thrive with earlier bedtimes and early mornings - anytime between 6 am - 8 am. But, when I talk about early morning wakings, I mean when a baby wakes before 6 am.  This is considered a middle-of-the-night waking...that just never ended.  Here are some of the reasons that your child may be waking up SO early…


1. Sleep is VERY light after 3 am:

    Cortisol hormones rise, and melatonin production decreases about three hours before your baby’s circadian rhythm.  This means if your child falls asleep at 7 pm, and their circadian rhythm of sleep is 6 am, they will start to produce cortisol (awake stress hormone), and melatonin ceases.  Additionally, as sleep cycles progress through the night, they get shorter and lighter.  This makes any disturbance - like the rising of the sun - a contribution to an early morning waking.  So if a child has not yet developed independent sleep skills, they cannot go back to sleep during this time.  There isn’t much you can do to change sleep cycles, but you can ensure that you try to limit as many possible disturbances during this time as possible.  


2. Light is signaling the wake-up:

    We know that sleep cycles are already very light, which means they can be sensitive to light, and what usually comes up to say hello right around that time?  Yup, the sun.  The sun does two things: it directly signals to the brain that it is now daytime, and light also inhibits melatonin.  This is a fix that can quickly help your mornings.  Babies LOVE dark, and so does melatonin.  Light begins to slow melatonin secretion, so keeping it very dark in the room in the mornings can help add a few more winks in the morning for your babes.


3. Bedtime might be too late:

    Studies show that late bedtimes contribute to child sleep deprivation, shorter sleep, and earlier wake-ups. Again, it is counterintuitive, but children usually thrive with early bedtimes.  The best rest for most babies over six weeks of age is anywhere between 6 pm - 8 am.  Maybe you’ve been putting your child down for bedtime at 8 pm or 9 pm because you think they will sleep longer, but science says otherwise.  Start small, and try to move up bedtime 15 mins at a time every couple of days until you hit your sweet spot. 


4. It's part of their expected schedule:

    While they do develop their biological rhythms for sleep, children can also be influenced by us as parents.  You might think of it in reverse situations.  Maybe you used to be a great sleeper, and now that your child wakes up so nicely at 5 am, you find yourself waking around that time, or even a few mins earlier anticipating the time.  You have now TRAINED yourself (or your child has trained you) to wake up at that time.  Conversely, if you have been going in and feeding your child right away after every early waking, they might have it established as part of their routine.  If this sounds like you, one thing you can do is resist the urge to go in right away.  It could be a few-minute delay, or more if you feel comfortable.  Especially if your little one is not crying, allow them to hang out until the desired wake time and be consistent about the time you take them out of the room.



 While these aren’t all the reasons an early morning waking occurs, they are the most common.  Following some of the fixes we mentioned above can help you inch closer to a better morning!


Exhaustion is optional,

Rested Mama, Happy Baby Founder

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