Is your 5 year old waking up too early all of a sudden? Learn how to stop early morning wake-ups and get your child to sleep in longer.
As if to remind you what sleep deprivation feels like, your 5 year old has been waking up early. As in, between four and five in the morning, before any hint of sunlight has even passed.
He has no problem with nighttime sleep but continues to wake up far too early to start the day. With such an early rising, he’s bogged down with tiredness.
Sometimes your child wakes up fussy and crying, and lying down with him is the only way to sometimes help him fall back asleep (or at least stay quiet). While this can “work,” it’s obviously not the ideal situation for anyone. Other times, he makes such a loud commotion playing with all his toys that he wakes up his siblings.
You feel like you’ve tried everything, but now that it’s been going on for months, you’re not sure how or when these early wake-ups will ever end.
What to do with your 5 year old waking up too early
No doubt about it, waking up early when you’re long past the newborn or even toddler stage can be hard. You’re afraid you’ve set bad sleep habits, but can’t seem to figure out how else you can get enough sleep.
I hear you, friend. And even though nothing you’ve tried seems to work, don’t give up hope. There is still plenty to do to help turn things around and help him wake up later in the morning.
As much of an early riser as I am, I still expect my kids to stay in bed until wake time. Here is what has helped me make sure that they get the sleep they need and get a good start to the day:
1. Ignore the early wake-ups
Do you resort to sleeping in your child’s room just to get her to quiet down and get some sleep? Or have you spent the majority of the early morning hours pleading with her to sleep, or even getting frustrated and yelling at her for waking up so early?
This attention—whether positive or negative—enables the behavior you don’t want to see to keep happening.
For instance, lying down with her for the rest of the morning rewards early waking. Even getting upset and losing your temper sends the message that waking up early is now a “thing” between the two of you and gets you riled up.
Instead, ignore the early wake-ups.
When you hear her wake up or cry, check in to make sure all is okay and to remind her that it’s still time to sleep. Then, set your timer for about 15 minutes. If she’s still fussy, check in briefly again (30 seconds at most) and close the door once again.
Keep checking in until the official wake-up time, at which point you can then get her up for the day. Repeat this every morning as needed until she realizes that wake-up time isn’t when she wakes, but when you enter the room to get her up.
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2. Use blackout curtains and white noise
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The right sleep environment can make all the difference. Even though your child’s room is still dark during those early morning hours, even the slightest brightness can convince him it’s time to wake up.
Hang darkening curtains or blinds to keep the room dark and block out sunlight from the window. That way, should he stir in the early hours, the darkness can signal that he should keep snoozing for one more sleep cycle.
Another tool to have on hand is white noise. The constant sound from a white noise machine can muffle sudden noises that might startle him awake. A fan, heater, or even an audio app can also do the same.
3. Use an alarm to push wake-up time later
Another method to help your 5 year old stop waking up too early is to use an alarm, particularly one that lights up or signals that it’s time to wake up. Alarm clocks for kids can light up at a set time. Or you can leave an old phone in her room that can play a gentle alarm as well.
Having an alarm can make waking up at a particular time seem “fair” (as opposed to waking up when you enter the room). It’s also very black-and-white: if the alarm turns blue or plays chimes, then she’s allowed to get up.
You can also set the alarm in 10-15 minute increments until you reach your desired awake time. For instance, if she wakes up at 5am every morning, set the alarm for 5:15am the next. The following day, set it for 5:30am, and so forth. This can help her body gradually adjust to sleeping in later.
4. Adjust bedtime
Many older kids this age can sleep for 10 – 12 hours of sleep at night, even without nap-time. If your 5 year old is going to bed at the reasonable hour of 7:30pm, it may not be all that unusual that she wakes up at 5:30am.
If she seems content the rest of the day despite the early wake-up, she may not need as many hours as you think or hope. Fiddle with her sleep schedule—pushing bedtime back to 8:30pm could mean a reasonable wake-up time of 6:30am.
What if she’s sleeping too late? That can also cause an early wake-up if she’s overtired and lacks the sleep she needs when she wakes up mid-cycle in the early morning. Rather than falling back asleep, she’s wired and ready to go, even though she could use more rest.
In this situation, moving bedtime earlier could solve the problem. In most cases, kids should be asleep by 8:30pm at the latest.
5. Have regular bedtime and morning routines
One of the best things you can do to help your child wake up later is to have consistent routines both at bedtime and in the mornings.
Routines make the activities you need her to do not only normal and expected, but automatic. If she always wakes up to use the bathroom, eat oatmeal, brush her teeth, and get dressed every morning, you no longer have to nag or fight her to do these things. A morning and bedtime routine makes these tasks easier to do.
With so much consistency to his day, anything out of the boundaries of the routine—like waking up early—can start to feel abnormal.
A routine is more than waking up or going to bed by a certain time, though that certainly helps. You also have to do the same things in the same order, every time. Down the line, you can be more flexible with the routine, but as you’re trying to change her behavior, consistency is important.
6. Praise for progress
As difficult as early wake-ups can be, you can only get so far with disciplining your child and correcting her behavior. This needs to be balanced with positive reinforcement and praise that can encourage her to continue the behavior you like.
This could feel like an impossible task when she constantly wakes up early, but find any small nugget to praise, any shift in the right direction. Don’t reserve your praise only for when your child sleeps in until 7am. Instead, praise her for any progress she makes, however small.
Maybe she cried when she woke up, but not as long as she usually does. She may have gotten out of bed, but thankfully didn’t leave the room. So, you can say, “I’m so proud of you! You stayed in your room all night.” Or “I know it’s tough to wake up early and stay in bed, but you figured out a way to calm yourself down.”
No parent wants to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and worry that her child’s sleep needs aren’t being met. Hopefully, with the guidance above, you’ve learned a few ways to stop this sleep regression and help yours sleep a bit longer.
Don’t reward the early wake-ups by paying them more attention than it needs. Quick check-ins at timed intervals can be all it takes to correct the behavior. Use blackout curtains and a sound machine to help him sleep longer should he stir in the early morning.
Use a toddler clock or alarm to push wake-up time later and help him know with certainty when it’s okay to get up. Adjust bedtime as needed, and have consistent and repetitive morning and evening routines. Lastly, praise for any progress you see, not just perfection of good sleep.
Sleep deprivation does not have to be the norm, my friend! Here’s to a good night’s sleep (and a morning one, too!).
Get more tips:
- How to Create a Daily Schedule for a 5 Year Old
- 6 Reasons to Stop Labeling Kids
- What to Do When Your 5 Year Old Won’t Stay in Bed
- The Importance of Raising a Self Sufficient Child
- Are You Teaching These Life Skills Your Child Needs in Adulthood?
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