In general, an early-rising baby is common. But how early is too early? If you find that your little one has become an alarm clock that goes off at 4:00 am-5:00 am, then it might be time to investigate why this is happening.
As a general rule of thumb, 5:30/6:00 am is when most babies have finished their full nights sleep – anything before that, should be considered nighttime. Of course, some babies (and lucky parents) will sleep-in, to 6:30 am or even 7:00 am. However, after 10-11+ hours of solid sleep, most babies are naturally wanting to wake from 5:30 am onwards. Yes, I know, I know… it would be nice if our babies slept until 7:00 am or even 8:00 am, but unfortunately, 5:30 am onwards is actually a natural and biological time for them to wake.
During the early morning hours (4:00-6:00 am), a baby’s biological sleep drive is extremely low as this is when melatonin (the sleepy hormone) is wearing off. Meaning, at the tail end of the night, your baby will be in the lighter stage of sleep and as a result, might wake up for various reasons despite the fact they still need more sleep.
If your little one is waking in the wee hours of the morning, it’s good to address some of the top causes of early rising.
The smallest bit of sunlight in the room can cause your baby’s brain to release hormones to help wake them up. Shutters, blinds, and dark curtains usually don’t block out enough light by themselves so I recommend adding blackout blinds.
A bedtime that is too late
If your child isn’t getting enough sleep during the day, they might be overtired. It can be hard to gauge whether or not your little one is really alert or just experiencing a sleep debt but a good place to start is whether a sleep window has been missed. If your child misses a nap or has a bedtime set too late, they’ll begin to become overtired.
The science behind it is that once that sleep window is missed, hormones such as cortisol (which is similar to adrenaline) will fire off because the brain registers that sleep time has passed. As a result, your child will give off the illusion that they’re alert and awake and don’t need to be put to sleep, when in fact the opposite is true. Try to take notice of your baby’s individual tired signs and put them to bed BEFORE they get overtired.
The first nap is too early
A baby going to sleep too early for their first day nap ,will be treated by your baby’s body as an extension of night sleep, causing early morning wakings the next day! It’s important to keep in mind age-appropriate napping schedules to find out what wake windows are suited to the age of your child.
However, generally, the first wake window of the day will be the shortest.
Too much daytime sleep
Every baby has a sleep bank and sometimes, too much daytime sleep will overfill that sleep bank by the time bedtime rolls around. This can cause your baby to wake up earlier because they aren’t tired anymore. It can be hard to figure out whether or not your child is having too much sleep during the day but it’s worth keeping an eye on their age-appropriate napping schedule. As your child grows, the amount and length of naps will change too.
Too drowsy at bedtime
If you put your baby down in the cot when they’re already asleep, it’s possible your baby can’t go back to sleep on their own if they wake during the early hours of the morning. Falling asleep independently is incredibly important if you want to combat early morning wakes. During the early hours of the morning, your baby’s sleep drive is at their lowest, so if they haven’t mastered self-settling, it’ll lead to waking up earlier.
We always try to encourage a later wake-up time but remember, some babies after 10+hrs sleep are ready to start the day. This might mean 5:30 am wake-ups (not a bad payoff after 10 hours of solid sleep, though right?). I recommend trying all the tips above to see if your little one will wake later. However, if your baby is always waking at this time after such a long night sleep and very upset, chances are they are just an early bird.
If you need help teaching your baby how to self-settle or sleep later in the morning, get in touch with a professional Baby Sleep Consultant in Sydney. My NewBorn – Baby Sleep Consultant offers a wide range of baby sleep programs to suit whatever you feel your family needs, and can help you overcome early morning rising.