How To Stop Your Toddler Waking Up Too Early

Struggling with your toddler waking up too early? You’re not stuck with early mornings. Learn why this happens and what you can do to help your child sleep longer.

Toddler Waking At 5am

I thought I was in the clear. My son had been sleeping through the night, waking up like clockwork at 7am the next morning.

But then, the wake-up time began creeping earlier and earlier to the point where they were cutting into my morning routine. There was no way I was going to let 5am be his new wake-up time. I knew kids woke up early, but that early?

Thankfully I found a few techniques to get him to wake up at his regular time again. And even if he happened to wake up early, I got him to stay in bed until it was time to start the day.

I hope you can apply these tips with your own toddler—you’re not stuck with early mornings, friend! Your days can start when you determine them, not when she wakes up. Here’s how:

Move bedtime later

If your toddler wakes up too early crying, it might be because of an early bedtime along with a long midday nap.

Given that toddlers generally sleep 10-12 hours a night, putting him down at 7pm could easily mean a 5am wake-up the next morning. This is especially true if he seems content and well-rested the rest of the day (this means that he’s perfectly fine with 10 hours of nighttime sleep).

One simple way to handle early morning wakings is to adjust for a later bedtime. Shift bedtime back in 15-minute increments so he can sleep and wake up later. If bedtime is normally 7pm, stretch it to 7:15pm for a few nights until he gets used to that. Then, aim for a 7:30pm bedtime. Keep pushing it back until you reach the time you’d like him to go to bed.

Free resource: Do you struggle with getting him to take a nap? Grab The Five Habits That Will Make Your Child’s Naps Easier! Discover the five steps you need to do to finally get a break while he naps. Get your copy below! you’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:

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The Five Habits That Will Make Your Child's Naps Easier

Shorten naps

Figuring out your child’s sleep needs starts with taking a big picture of his sleep patterns. For instance, one issue that can lead to early wake-ups is a long nap. The more he sleeps during the day, the less he might need at night. He might be getting by with 9-10 hours at night because he sleeps 3-4 hours during the day.

If this is the case, you can:

  • Adjust naps earlier in the day: This allows for a lengthier time awake before bedtime, which can push bedtime later.
  • Transition to one nap: If he’s still taking two naps a day, see if he can take one and reserve the rest of his sleep for nights.
  • Wake him up after a certain point: If he’s taking long afternoon naps, wake him up after a certain time to make sure he can still sleep well at night.
Transition to One Nap

Cap nap time at 3pm

Believe it or not, many early wake-ups happen from a lack of quality sleep, not too much. For instance, if your toddler fights bedtime and ends up sleeping long past he’s supposed to, he just might wake up earlier than later. If sleep begets sleep, then you can imagine what lack of sleep can do.

Instead, cap nap time at 3pm so that he has plenty of time awake before bed. This allows him to fall asleep quickly and rest through the night, instead of waking up restless.

Need to adjust your nap schedule? You can do so gradually in 15- to 30-minute increments. Let’s say he usually naps until 4pm. Move nap time 30 minutes earlier (or wake him up at 3:30pm) until he has settled into that pattern. Then, adjust even further, so that he’s awake by 3pm.

Don’t reward early wake-ups

You might not think you’re rewarding your toddler during these early wake-ups, but she might see it differently.

Giving attention of any kind—positive or negative—rewards her in some way. For instance, don’t get her up for the day, even if it’s to drink a cup of milk or snuggle with books. Avoid turning on the television or bringing her to your bed until you’re ready for the day.

Similarly, avoid engaging in power struggles, even if you’re sleep deprived and delirious. Not only is she less likely to take in any lessons, but you’re also reinforcing the wake-ups with your attention (even if negative).

Do strategic check-ins

It’s tempting to allow your day to start when your toddler wakes up crying every morning. But be firm with his wake-up time as you would with bedtime. You don’t have to start your day early because he’s awake. Instead, teach him to wait and understand that wake-up time doesn’t happen the minute he’s up.

How? Implement strategic check-ins in the morning.

First, come with the right mindset, especially on your first few attempts. This means expecting that he’ll probably wake up early, not hoping he’ll sleep in. Remain calm and focused, knowing you’re here to solve a problem that will get better.

Then, at the first sign he’s awake, walk into his room and explain it’s not wake-up time yet. Keep your tone subdued and your check-in short—30 seconds at most. Encourage him to go back to sleep until wake-up time. Re-tuck him in bed as you did the night before to signal you’re not here to get him up for the day.

At this point, make sure that everything is okay—for instance, that he hasn’t pooped in his diaper or isn’t feeling sick. But more than likely, he’s fussing and crying because he’s used to starting the day the minute he’s up.

Then, if he’s still crying 15 minutes later, go into his room and again explain that it’s not wake-up time yet.

Continue to do these check-ins until your desired wake-up time. He’ll likely cry or fuss the whole time those first few mornings, but he’ll learn that you mean what you say and won’t start the day until wake-up time.

And if he’s awake but quiet? Let him be and don’t check in. Not all kids can or want to go back to sleep in the early morning, especially if there isn’t a lot of time left anyway. It’s fine for him to lie down quietly and wait for you to come get him up for the day.

Keep the room dark and use white noise

Early morning hours can be rough in certain seasons when the sun is already up by 5am. I recommend installing darkening curtains in your child’s room, even if you already have blinds or shades. While it won’t be pitch-dark as it is at night, the curtains block most of the sunlight and signal that it’s still time to sleep.

Another must-have is white noise, which is another signal to keep sleeping. It can also muffle sounds that can startle him awake, from you getting ready in the kitchen to noise from the neighbors. The soothing sound can also comfort him to go back to sleep if he wakes up.

You can find noise white in many places, from white noise machines to apps, or even using a regular fan or heater.

Be consistent with your routines

Kids thrive with routine and consistency, including when they sleep and wake up. The more consistent you are with wake-ups, the more you’ll help build your toddler’s internal clock to accept a new wake-up time.

Think about daylight savings time and the changes she had to make to adjust to a new sleep cycle. But through routine and sometimes by need, she had to make do with a new toddler schedule. You can help her internal clock adjust to a later wake-up time in a similar way.

You’ll also want to focus on improving her naps. As they say, “sleep begets sleep.” The better quality her sleep is during the day, the better her nighttime sleep will be. Make sure she’s not overtired to the point that she can’t get a good night’s sleep.

Many parents have also recommended using a light-up toddler clock that signals when it’s time to wake up and get out of bed. While she may not be able to tell time, she can use the lights from the alarm clock to know when it’s okay to get out of bed.

Toddler Schedule

Consider your toddler’s needs

Sleep needs are constantly changing in early childhood, from transitioning to one nap to needing less sleep. Check with your child’s pediatrician to see how many hours a day he should be sleeping, especially for older toddlers. For all you know, he might be getting too much sleep in the day, affecting how well he sleeps at night.

If so, maybe it’s time to put him down for a later bedtime, especially if he’s asleep at an early hour. (However, try not to go later than 8:30pm.) You could also experiment with his naps, either by dropping one or shortening their length.

Besides sleep, see if he could also be waking up because of hunger. If he eats a light dinner or eats it early, he might be hungry come 4am. If so, give him more food at dinner, push dinnertime later in the evening, or offer a bedtime snack to tide him over until the next morning.

Teach your toddler when to wake up

Kids don’t always know when it’s the right time to wake up, especially when they’re too young to even tell time at all. Still, you can find creative ways to signal when it’s okay for your child to wake up or whether he should stay asleep.

Let’s say you want him to wake up no earlier than 6am. Place a digital clock in his room and cover the minutes’ side with painter’s tape. Teach him what the number “6” looks like on the digital clock, and let him know that he can only get out of the room when the clock says “6.”

Another way is to use a toddler alarm clock that lights up at a certain time. Set the clock’s light to turn on at the wake-up time you want. That way, any time it’s off should let him know that it’s still time to sleep.

Break unsustainable habits

How many of the “solutions” to your toddler’s early wake-ups are sustainable? Letting him sleep in your bed or putting a pacifier in his mouth might seem like quick fixes, especially when you’re exhausted. “I won’t do it tomorrow, I promise,” you vow to yourself.

But of course, the next morning rolls around and you bring him to your bed and insert the pacifier 10 times yet again. You’re exhausted, no doubt—except these quick fixes only reinforce the very habits you’re trying to eliminate.

Instead, think of the “Band-Aid” analogy. The temporary pain of replacing old habits and sleep associations might hurt for a short time, but over the long run, you’re setting him up for good sleep.

Get your toddler up at the same time every morning

Sometimes your toddler cries for you because he’s not sure if or when you’re going to get him up for the day. He might wake up at 4am because he’s not sure what time you’ll get him up.

But he can be more willing to wait if he knows that you always get him at the time you say you will. Let’s say you tell him that you’ll get him up at 6:30am, and you do this with consistency. He won’t feel anxious about when you’ll get him up because he knows you always do.

Allow him to experience what it’s like to wait in his room. Then, make sure to praise him for waiting and trying to fall back asleep so he continues this behavior. The more you stay consistent, the less anxious he feels about when to start the day.

Make no (or few) exceptions

Dealing with tantrums at four in the morning isn’t exactly any sleep-deprived parent’s ideal way to start the day. No wonder so many of us relent and bring our kids to our bed, start the day early, or otherwise cave in to their demands.

The problem? These “quick fix solutions” reinforce the very habits you’re trying to break. Your toddler now thinks it’s fine to wake up at an early hour when you allow him to.

Think about a few non-negotiable rules you enforce, from sitting in a car seat to not hitting his new baby sister. Just as you would never allow him to sit without a car seat or continue to bonk the baby on the head, so too should you be as firm on early wake-ups.

One way to help you better enforce these new habits is to brace yourself the previous night. Tell yourself you might have an early morning to deal with his wake-up (you might even go to bed earlier than usual).

Then, be firm about his requests to get out of the crib, despite his bedtime tantrums. Supply him with books and toys to keep him occupied, then close the door behind you. Repeat these behaviors morning after morning and he can learn to put himself back to sleep or entertain himself until wake-up time.

Adjust your toddler’s nap

Do you have an amazing napper? As great as a long nap may be, it could be contributing to her early wake-ups.

Kids’ sleep is based on the total hours they slept within a 24-hour period, not just during the night. If she’s taking a four-hour nap during the day, she may not need as many hours of sleep at night. And if she goes to sleep at a decent hour, she’s bound to wake up early the next day.

Another factor is when she takes a nap. An early nap time might feel necessary because she woke up early in the morning. If she’s napping at 10:30am or 11am, try keeping her awake until around 12pm.

Experiment with naps, whether their length or timing, to see if that can encourage her to wake up at a later hour in the morning.


Early rising is difficult for the entire family. But I’ve learned that we can change many of these disruptions with a bit of knowledge, consistency, and helping your toddler find a new time to wake up. With these simple tweaks, you can have your 7am mornings back once again.

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  1. What if the toddler absolutely, point blank refuses to stay in his room upon waking. He is in in a bed now so just gets out. He will scream, shout, while, run out of his room, stand screaming in our room, pull our bed clothes off the bed all in an attempt to either 1. Get in our bed 2. Go downstairs. So i’m not sure the check in is going to work….
    He is able to not have a nap now in the day but this cycle of early waking means that he now can’t go a whole day without sleep as he is just too tired. However, this nap now often comes at 4/5pm. Which means bed time is 9/9.30pm which means waking early, which means he has to nap etc etc. II don’t know how to break this.
    He is active & I always make sure we have play time outside or the weather is bad, some activity that is physical.
    He has, on average 1.5 hours of screen time a day. Either on a tablet or tv. Never alone & I try to interact with him when it’s on.
    I am 33 weeks pregnant with number two as well, so I am feeling this lack of rest more than anything & getting very cranky & upset with him in the day.
    Any advice is welcome!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh Kate, I can only imagine how much harder the pregnancy is with your toddler behaving this way!

      Honestly when my toddler was opening the door, I placed those doorknob locks on the inside of his room so that he can’t open the door. I know other parents also put a baby gate by the door to keep them in the room. It seems odd to keep them in there, but I think of their room as their new “crib” where they need to stay until wake up time.

      See what happens too if you try to get him to nap earlier. If that doesn’t work, I’d try skipping the late nap altogether and simply having an early bedtime.

      Then, this might not seem related, but I would talk to him about the new baby and reassure him of any fears he might be having. Toddlers tend to act differently, especially the more pregnant we look and the more anxious or excited we may act now that the baby is coming soon. He may be acting out because of deeper anxieties about what life will be like with the new baby, so it’s worth talking about with him as well.

      Hang in there, mama! Hoping this will pass soon. xo, Nina

  2. Hi! Thanks for your article! We are having the same situation with my daughter waking up at 5 or earlier. We moved her to a toddler bed two weeks ago and even that she is sleeping all over the night, she started to wake up really early. Some days with good energy but some, as today, cranky and whining all the time. She is having two naps during the day, one during the morning and the other from 12.30 to 2.30 at daycare. I don’t know if I have to stop letting her sleep during the morning, but she is really tired and she will sleep on her lunch. She goes to bed at 8pm. I don’t know what to do. I tried today what you wrote: calmly ask her to go back to bed,but she made a huge tantrum that I believe she woke up all the neighbors hehehe

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh Noemi I hope that she starts sleeping in the mornings once again! It might be that she’s reacting to the new toddler bed. Hopefully she passes this phase soon!

  3. My daughter is 21 months and has been waking at 5/5.30am for as long as I can remember. I’m doing EVERYTHING I have read online and nothing is working! Bed time is 7pm (asleep by 7.30) and nap is 11.45-2.00pm. She stays in her cot happily until 6am which I am grateful for but u struggle to get her to last until her day nap and she’s grumpy all morning. Her goes to bed fine at night without complain, is dressed warmly enough, pitch black room and a fan used as white noise (very quiet neighbourhood anyway) so no sound would be waking her. The one thing I haven’t tried is capping her day nap at an hour/1.5 hours and not letting her sleep two hours ??? I’ve tried making bed time later and it doesn’t seem to work either. Please any suggestions would be so appreciated!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Tara! Yes, see what a 1.5 nap would do, or moving her nap even earlier like 11-1pm (especially if she’s cranky in the mornings). Or if you do try to make her bedtime later (like 7:30/8), keep trying for several days instead of just one day of it not working. Sometimes it takes a while for us to adjust. It’s sort of like how we adjust to daylight savings time, and how it can take a few days before we start waking up comfortably at the new time. Good luck, mama! It can definitely be a challenge!

  4. Colleen Lodge says:

    What happens if you’ve tried all the tricks and your toddler still is waking up after MONTHS of trying?

    Our 17 month old goes to bed around 6:30-7. He wakes up between 4:30 and 5 pretty much every day since September. Yeah. September.

    He gets 1 nap at daycare at around noon that lasts 2- 2 1/2 hours. He goes to bed awake with no issues, talks to himself and we have low music and a star lamp we turn on for him. If he wakes up in the middle of the night we usually wait to see if he goes back to sleep on his own and if not we usually talk to him through his monitor and he goes back to sleep. We have a white noise machine and blackout blinds.

    Every. Morning. He wakes up between 4:30 and 5. We don’t go in. We talk to him through his monitor and tell him it’s not time to get up yet. We do this regularly. Rarely, he will fall back to sleep for 15-20 minutes but usually he cries until we get him up at 5:45. We have tried moving bedtime earlier. We have tried moving it later. We have tried letting him cry it out. Daddy has gone in his room. Nothing seems to work. I’m exhausted and I’m at my wits end.

    Any idea you have would be appreciated. I’m going to try buying one of those clocks next.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Big hugs, Colleen! I know it’s not easy when it’s been this way for a long time. I wonder if it’ll help to tell him what you expect, both the night before and what he can do in the morning. The previous night, tell him that he’ll go back to sleep if he wakes up early or you haven’t come in yet. That the only time to get up is when you come get him. And perhaps give him a few ideas of what he can do in the meantime to help himself fall back asleep, such as holding a special stuffed animal. Or if it’s okay to be awake, activities you’re okay with, like quietly playing with toys or reading a book. Then the times he does wake up later, praise him for that as well, for being able to sleep late or not get up until you got him. Hang in there, Colleen! xo, Nina

  5. We are struggling here lately. My two year old has been waking up at 5 and 5:30 forever. He was doing well for a while with the OK to Wake clock staying in bed until 6, but since he learned how to open his door we went backwards. He would show up in my room and scare me to death just standing there until I woke up. My husband works offshore, so our schedule is often a little out of whack when daddy is home. Do we just start from scratch telling him like we did before that it’s not time to get up yet? Like the separation anxiety for him is NUTS lately. I just am so tired, and I don’t want him to be over tired either. Help!

    1. I should add that we did put one of the door things on it so he can’t turn the knob and escape.

    2. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Rachael! Yes, I’d start from scratch, and I don’t think it’ll be as challenging as the first time. It’s likely because of the changes in your home that he’s been waking up early. Keep his room as dark as possible (darkening curtains help, or even temporarily taping black garbage bags over the window if need be).

  6. Hi Nina
    My baby has just turned 1. She has NEVER slept through the night and things just seem to be getting worse now!
    She wakes every 2 hours at night time. I’m exhausted.
    She only has one bottle of milk now at 5pm. She’s done this since 7 months so it’s not a new change.
    She eats dinner at 4pm as she goes to bed around 6pm because she’s tired.
    She has two naps one about 8.30-10am and then another about 1.30 to 2.30pm.
    Do you have any suggestions that might help her sleep better? She’s tired because she never has had a full night’s sleep but she just pushes past it and then is awake! She’s a happy baby and wakes from her naps happy and fine but by 6pm she is tired. She doesn’t fall straight to sleep, usually it takes toll 6.45 ish for her to fall asleep.
    So 7pm asleep and 5am wake up with waking every 2 hours at night… I’m exhausted!!
    Any suggestions would be so appreciated!
    Thank you so much
    Leonie x

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Leonie! Her naps do sound great, it’s just the fact that she wakes up every 2 hours at night. My guess is that she still hasn’t learn to fall asleep on her own, and requires you to do something, whether rocking her to sleep, patting her, shushing her, feeding, etc., in order to do so. Have you checked out my guide on self soothing? ( I break down an exact process on how to teach her to self soothe so that you can simply lay her down awake, and she’ll fall asleep for 11-12 hours straight at night. Definitely check it out—parents have told me it’s so worth it!

      1. Thank you for your lovely reply!
        She can get herself to sleep – however – she has a lot of problems – severe allergies, bad reflux still, hayfever etc. And she always has tummy pain at nighttime. I’m wondering whether because when she wakes at night I either give her gripe water for her tummy or calpol for her pain, she is used to this as a sleeping aid – and I think this is what I need to stop! I will look at your book! Thank you again 🙂 Leonie x

        1. Nina Garcia says:

          Have you checked with her pediatrician to see if there are underlying issues? Might be worth a check. But yes, perhaps she has grown used to this habit as a way to fall asleep.

          1. I have many times! All her bloods etc always come back normal but I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve had to take her to the emergency at 2am because she won’t stop screaming!
            I’ve just given her the first lot of gripe water… Let the night begin!!
            She just seems in constant pain and uncomfortable. It’s so sad and frustrating to watch! X

    2. Hello

      My 17 month old wakes every day and has done since she was tiny at between 4:45-5:15.

      She can’t seem to go more than 3.5-4 hrs in a wake window before getting very cranky. So is still having 2 naps a day, normally at about 9:15-10:45 and 14:00-15:30.

      Her bedtime routine is normally started around 18:30 and settled off to sleep by about 19:15. She will in general sleep through the night but always wants a bottle on waking and then won’t settle back down whatever we try.

      She has blinds, blackout blinds and blackout curtains in her room. She has white noise playing all night. She has teddies in her cot too.

      We sleep trained her at 5 months so she can and does self settle at day time naps and during the night too.

      We have tried having bedtime later which always results in an early if not earlier wake time and a very grumpy baby as she hasn’t had enough overnight sleep.

      I know she should be transitioning to 1 nap a day but I can’t see how to do that when she’s up so early and needs that additional sleep!

      I am now pregnant again and the early wakings are making me feel so ill!

      1. Nina Garcia says:

        Hi there! At 17 months, it’s still common to take two naps, so don’t worry if you find that she still needs it. That said, this is also the age when they do start transitioning to one nap.

  7. Hey there! I came across this article when I was researching, you guessed it, early morning wakings. About the last 6 weeks my 15.5 month old has been waking between 4:30-5:15 about 75% of the time. I’ve tried just about everything to get him to sleep later but nothing has helped. Usually he will lay in there for a bit and jabber or play with his stuffed animals. But before too long he starts to get mad and then usually starts full on crying. If I try to go in and console him that usually makes him even madder. If I do take him out of his crib to cuddle sometimes he with lay on me but he usually won’t go back to sleep. But if we get up and get ready and head to daycare he falls asleep in the car so he’s obviously not getting enough sleep. His naps are all over the place at daycare usually he only naps about an hour. Sometimes more and sometimes less (they take a nap at noon). I’ll put him down as early as 6:30 if he doesn’t nap well and more like 7-7:30 if he naps 2 hours. A lot of times he falls asleep on the way home for like 10-15 min and that seems to mess with him falling asleep easily. He’s obviously tired when he gets up he just won’t go back to sleep and I have no idea what to do. I’m a single mom and it’s about to make me lose my mind!

    1. I should also note I’ve tried just not going in at all until an acceptable time to wake up and he is just screaming by that point.

    2. Nina Garcia says:

      I hear ya, Ashley! It sounds like the drive home with that 10-15 minute catnap is what’s throwing him off. One trick is to offer him something to eat on the way home, even a cracker or two. Hopefully he’ll eat on the way home instead of falling asleep, and of course try to talk to him so he doesn’t fall asleep.

      I would also do periodic check-ins in the morning between the time he wakes up and the official wake up time. No need to pick him up or stay too long, but just enough so he knows it’s still sleep time until you signal it’s wake up time (like by opening the curtains, turning on the light, etc). Try to stay consistent with wake up time so he knows he can fall back asleep if he happens to wake up. And maybe encourage a comfort item he can hold on to to help him self soothe.

      Hope that helps Ashley! Hang in there, mama!

  8. Our 2yr old has been waking at 5 am with a poopy diaper most of his life, but would sleep through it about half the time. Now that we have introduced the potty, he wakes at this time daily and begs to go poop on the toilet. We take him poop, and he goes, but struggles to go back to sleep, and often cries for 20 mins, is quiet for about 30 mins and then cries out until we get him at around 6:30. He wakes our other 2 children up in this process, and we are all becoming very sleep-deprived.
    He goes to bed at 7 and naps from 12:30-2 or 2:30. Is it possible to change his poop schedule? He eats a well-rounded diet, and breastfeeds 3x a day, the last feed being right before bedtime.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Jessica! He’s definitely got his schedule down, for sure 🙂 I’d start by cutting out that bedtime feed and seeing how that goes. If after a few days and he’s still pooping at that time, see if you can move dinner earlier so that he has more time to digest and isn’t going to bed with a full stomach. And finally, see if he’s willing to sit on the potty at other times of the day, like before bath time or after dinner. I hope that helps!

  9. Good morning!

    It’s 5:20 AM here and our 27 month old has been awake and crying for an hour already. He is usually asleep by 7:30 every night, but we are VERY lucky if he naps at all during the day, and most of the time only about 30 minutes. During the day, he eats well, gets plenty of playtime, and lots of love from family and friends. He has always been a terrible napper, and his great night sleep schedule has been the saving grace of it all, but now it seems to be deteriorating. He was waking at 7 AM, then the next day, 6:45, then 6:15, then 5:45, and this morning 4:30. Any tips for us would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Bri! I can totally relate to those early wake ups. I’d stay consistent with keeping his official wake up time the same. If he wakes up at 4:30, go into his room to make sure all is fine, but then remind him that it’s not yet time to wake up and leave the room. If he continues to cry, keep checking in every few minutes until it’s 7am. You want to make it clear that wake up time isn’t anytime earlier than 7am. If you’re interested, I actually have a guide on teaching kids to self soothe and learn to keep sleeping in the morning: It’s geared toward babies but it does work just as well for toddlers, especially for those early morning wake ups 🙂 Definitely check it out if it resonates with you!

  10. I wonder if you have any help for me, my 34 month old has been waking at about 5 am for 3 months, pretty much ever since his baby brother was born. Previous to that he would wake never before 630. We have tried so many things and nothing seems to work! With the new baby we are losing our minds! He goes to bed with minimal difficulty around 745 and is usually asleep around 805. He naps every day from about 1230-230 there has been no change in his nap routine and that time is pretty consistent because that’s when his daycare does naps. He has white noise, we also got him one of the time to wake lights which helps him stay in bed but you can tell he’s tired because he is so much crankier then he used to be most days. We have tried putting him to bed as early as 715 and as late as 8 and neither really seems to help. I have tried bedtime snacks. He does commonly pee through his diaper but we have already sized up and doubled so I’m not sure how to help that. Any ideas?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Kelly! It’s definitely frustrating when nothing seems to work, and for three months (plus a newborn!). Two things I would try here, after hearing what you said. First, I’d try an even earlier bedtime to see if that would do the trick. I mean, REALLY early, like see what putting him to bed at 6:45pm or even 6:30pm does. Some parents find that a ridiculously early bedtime helps reset sleep regression.

      Then, a second suggestion I have which seems strange at first, is to talk to him about how he feels, especially about the new baby. I mention it because I don’t think it’s a coincidence he started doing this after the baby was born. He might be processing the changes and feelings he has through his sleep patterns. See what happens if you talk about the changes since the baby, reassure him that life won’t always feel so hectic, or try to have one-on-one time with him and make him feel involved. Fingers crossed that trying those two things can help. Sometimes it’s so much a trial and error kind of thing, and the fact that he’s still waking up doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job, it just means there’s still a solution that’s out there (even if that means he simply outgrows it 🙂 ). Keep me posted on how it goes, Kelly!

  11. Hi Nina,
    My little one is 17 months and we can’t get him to sleep past 5am. I am back at work now and the early mornings are making my day long and tough. When he wakes at 5am he literally starts crying immediately. If we go in to see him or stay away, the crying still escalates so much he starts coughing and spluttering. We also have a 5 year old who we don’t want to wake as he has school to go to. So there is only so long we can let the awful screaming occur! I haven’t tried periodic visits to the room from the time he wakes up as you have suggested to others so I guess I could try this. He is great at falling asleep by himself for his nap (12-2/2:30) and at bedtime 6:15/30. He rarely wakes in the night either. Any help, much appreciated.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Annie! I would try a later bedtime and see what happens after a few days of doing that. If he’s sleeping at 6:30am, he technically could be up for the day at 5:30am, which isn’t that far off from the 5am mark. See what happens if you try for a 7pm bedtime for a few nights. And yes, try the check ins to let him know that it isn’t time to wake up yet, and only get him up at the “official” wake up time. Let me know if that works!

  12. We have been doing the sleep training for about a week now and we sometimes get the good morning when he is chilled in his cot and the other times he just moans till I walk in and say it’s get up time, I’m thinking of introducing a clock that helps him understand wake up time, he’s 18 months so not sure if he will understand.
    My main question is how long do we keep doing this morning routine of going in every 15 mins as some mornings it feels like he’s never going to sleep in and should we just deal with it and start the morning?

    1. He has a bedtime of 7pm and is waking at 6.10 on the dot (in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the end of the world) we are just pushing for 7am to start the day, he naps once in the day for 2 hours and usually till about 2.30 so feel he has a lot of wake time to be tired for bed

      1. Nina Garcia says:

        Hi Nicola! There’s a good chance that he only needs 11 hours of sleep, so that a 6am wake up time is actually fine for him. As far as whether you should start the day then or at 7 is totally up to you. Personally, one of my boys also wakes up earlier than his brothers and likely only needs 11 hours, but I still start out day at 7am. Sometimes he’ll sleep in, but usually he’ll just wait in bed. If you feel like 6:10 to 7am is too long of a stretch, then maybe “compromise” and start the day at 6:30 so that he doesn’t have to wait as long. And yes, a toddler alarm clock has worked really well for many parents, because even if they can’t tell time, kids know they can only get up when the alarm lights up a certain color.

  13. My 19mo has been happily awake anywhere from 4-6am for the past 2.5 months, including after DST. His bedtime is 730, he naps from 1230-230. I keep reading conflicting advice on waketime before bed and nap capping. I think he is low sleep needs but he is a nightmare until his nap so I know he needs it somewhere. I leave him be until 645 every morning. It is pitch black in there. I have tried a single reminder that it’s night time and everyone is still sleeping. I have tried an earlier bedtime which results in split nights. As do earlier naps. He has loud white noise, a lovey and sleeps very independently. I am at a loss for what to do and it breaks my heart when he has meltdowns in the morning. He is a different child after his nap.

    1. I should add he falls asleep at 750/8p

    2. Nina Garcia says:

      Big hugs, April! It’s not easy dealing with early wake ups for so long.

      Since he’s generally taking one nap a day, I wouldn’t add a cat nap at the end of the day because that can mess with his bedtime. I’m curious how early of a nap you’ve switched him to, and whether you go the extreme and put him down really early for his nap. He’s cranky in the mornings understandably, and a temporary early nap can help him reset. For instance, put him down at 11am, and hopefully he’ll have enough wake time in the second part of his day to be sleepy enough come bedtime (which can also be adjusted earlier).

      Another thing that came up as I was thinking about your situation was to keep your evenings really subdued. You know how sometimes if you’re excited about what had happened during the day or anticipating the adventures of the next one, you sometimes find yourself not needing or wanting to sleep much? Either it takes forever to fall asleep or you wake up super early the next morning. It might be worth a try to keep your evenings subdued and chill so that he has less things to process through the night.

      Either way, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things, and hopefully, since this is new and not something he’s done all his life, that he’ll, on his own time, reset and resume his old sleeping schedule. xo, Nina

  14. Hello! We have tried your methods listed above, specifically the 15 minute check ins in the morning. Our daughter is 19 months old and will stand and scream in her crib for an entire hour! Her room is dark, we’ve adjusted bed times, she only takes one afternoon nap that is usually 2 hours. It’s like she has an eternal clock that she has to wake up at 5am.

    Any other suggestions?

    1. Our bedtime is typically 745-8pm. We’ve tried adjusting both ways and doesn’t seem to alter the time she wakes up.

      1. Nina Garcia says:

        Hi Jenna! Early mornings are definitely rough, especially when you feel like you’ve tried everything. It could be that she has a habit of waking up so early, so now it’s all about teaching her that it’s okay to fall back asleep (that she doesn’t have to stand up screaming until you come get her).

        I’d start by making sure you’re consistent with expectations, which means being firm with what you say you’re going to do. Make few, if any, exceptions to the “rules” you’ve set in place, especially as far as getting her up before the official wake up time. You can also try checking in only once, because frequent check ins can rile her up even more. And see if you can give her a special stuffed animal for the night, something she really loves that can “keep her company” while she waits or tries to fall back asleep.

        I hope it helps, Jenna!

        1. Thank you so much for the response!! I will try your recommendations!!

  15. Teri-anne Tromans says:

    Thank you for the article, my daughter is 21 months old and has struggled with sleeping since she was born. She has silent reflux and we weren’t aware straight away and she co-slept with me. The latest she has ever slept in is 6:30 and that only lasted a week. She has always woke around 5. Ive tried moving her bedtime forward and back, I’ve tried cutting her nap down and when I wake her up she’s very grumpy. But like any exhausted parent at 5 in the morning I would come downstairs and put the tv on for her. However, the last 4 weeks it’s moved from anytime between 1-4 and I’ve tried rocking her back to sleep, going into her, I’ve tried leaving her to cry it out but nothing works, she screams the house down. I’m literally at my wits end. My partner wants another baby soon but I don’t know how I would cope.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Teri-anne! I don’t think I wanted another baby until my eldest was 2.5 years old lol! If it’s okay with your pediatrician, try checking in on her when she wakes up until the official wake up time. For instance, if she wakes up at 4am, go in and tell her that it’s not yet time to wake up and to go back to sleep. Then set your alarm for 15 minutes and if she’s still crying, do the same. Keep doing this til the official wake up time. Then when you do get her up, congratulate her for staying in bed all that time, and that you know she can keep up the good work. Hopefully over several nights, she will learn to put herself back to sleep.

  16. What age group do you feel this is aged to?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Anna, this is based on when my kids were 2-3 years old.

  17. Hello,

    My 3 1/2 yr old has been waking at midnight and 5am yelling out for mom and dad as if she’s had a nightmare (which she may at times) but before, she used to lay herself back down and passout without us checking in. Now she yells till we go in. This has been going on for the last 2 months+. Thought it was a sleep regression stage because she had pretty much encountered all of them in her tiny life. Was never a good sleeper. But we learned early on to make and keep routine. We did it/tried it ALL. She started to finally sleep through the night around 3yo. But now this. We got her a “wake up” clock that turns green when shes allowed out of her room cause she associated (any) light as wake up time. We start her bedtime routine at 645 every night with a sleep time of 730ish. Sometimes it’s 8 or 830 if she napped in the car. We do low light to dark in our routine and a white noise. And she goes to school all day 3x a week. Should be tired, one would think. My husband and I just don’t know what to do anymore. We’re exhausted. Usually her regressions only lasted 4-6weeks but this is getting to be too much. About to make an appointment with the pediatrician if something doesn’t change soon or “Ferberize” her again, ugh.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Erin! Maybe do “check-ins” with her middle of the night wake ups and let her know it’s not time to wake up yet. For instance, if she wakes at 5am, go in and briefly let her know it’s time to still sleep. Then, if she’s still crying at 5 minutes, go in again and say the same thing. Repeat at 10 and 15 minutes and every 15 minutes thereafter. That way, she eventually learns that you won’t budge from your routine or get her up earlier than normal just because she woke up. Then, when it IS time to wake up, you can let her know it’s wake up time and what a great job she did by staying in bed all that time. Do this consistently enough and she should hopefully learn that waking up in bed doesn’t mean she’s up for the day.

  18. dhara Patel says:

    my 22 month old daughter who is sleep trained was doing great and waking up at 6:30- 7 am, but lately has been waking up at 5 am daily, and by 10:30 she is exhausted, her usually bedtime is around 7-7:30 and she falls asleep fine and sleep through the night but still wakes up at 5 am, THis is becoming difficult with day care as well bc she is tired a lot earlier. What can i do to fix it?
    she naps for 2 to 2:30 hours, anything i need to change about that?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Dhara, I would keep her in bed from 5am to 6:30am just so she knows that just because she wakes up at 5am, that doesn’t mean the day is going to start. Let her know it’s still time to sleep and don’t get her up just yet. Check in on her about every 15 minutes or so reminding her that it’s time to sleep. She may not go back to sleep the first few days, but at least she knows that it’s not time to get up yet until 6:30am.

  19. Hi
    So my 2 year old will not sleep through the night. She gets up at 3-5 am to sleep in our bed with us. It’s very random and out the blue. She has no naps during the day and we keep her active until bedtime so she cannot sleep because a 10 minute nap adds an hour into how long it takes her to sleep at night. She goes to bed at 7, takes her anywhere between 10-30 mins to sleep. However she used to take 4 hours to sleep with a nap. Naps were cut out due to her not having them in the morning and would have a temper tantrum if we tried to get her to nap. It wasn’t worth the daily hassle. She’s autistic so it is difficult. I put her back in her own bed every morning when she’s running into our room to sleep in bed with us. I can’t let her wake herself up at ridiculous times to sleep in bed with us. Do I just let her sleep in our bed at that time? She’s in her own bed, I’m thinking of putting a stair gate on to stop her running out whenever she wants and putting her in her room until it’s time to get up. Which is ideally 7/8 am. Nothing worse than her keeping me up from 3 am when I have work

    1. Also to add^ its easier to let her sleep with us. There’s been 2 times when neither me or my wife have woken up and she’s slept in bed until about 8/9 am with us. But I can’t be letting her do this everyday as most days she wakes me up and I cannot sleep. I put her back in bed and she will still come through at 6am again and get back into bed with us. But that’s the time she usually gets up but she comes in to sleep? But if I force her up she’ll be grumpy all day and will try to sleep at 4-6pm.

    2. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Elijah! It’s definitely rough not getting the sleep you need. I never could sleep well whenever I had a child in bed with me, even if they were able to sleep somewhat. It’s rough to say because I don’t have experience with autism myself, so I don’t want to pretend that a solution that might work for one will work in your case. Perhaps speak to her pediatrician who knows her well enough to make a recommendation in this case. Either way, hang in there <3

  20. Hi Nina,
    My little boy is 2 next month, he’s waking up at half 5 every morning, the odd occasion he will sleep until 6 but not very often. When he wakes up I tell him that it isn’t time to get up yet, put him back into his bed. But he will cry, scream, stomp on the floor and bang things. He goes to bed at 7 every night, I have always had the same routine for him, he knows when it’s bedtime. When it’s 6 I go in there and tell him it’s morning and time to get up. What can you suggest to try to try get him to sleep for longer than half 5? He has a nap during the day, I don’t let any naps happen after 3 or if he’s having a nap I will wake him up at 3 so his bedtime is still 7pm

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Courtney! I think if you stay consistent with getting him up no earlier than 6am, then he’ll eventually learn that no amount of crying and screaming will change things. Hopefully he’ll either adjust to waking up at 6am, or sit quietly in his bed. On that note, give him a few options of what he can do if he wakes up before you come get him, like hugging his stuffed animals or playing with a simple toy.

  21. Jackie Hamilton says:

    Hi there! My husband and I are in need of desperate help. Our 16.5-month-old has always been a great sleeper at night, but he has been waking up between 4:30-5am every morning for the past month and we are at the end our rope. His bedtime is 7:30pm, his room stays very dark with the sound machine on. The temp is comfortable too. We could try and push his bedtime to 7:45-8pm, but I’m not sure we want to go much later than 8pm. Any helpful tips would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Jackie! It’s definitely rough when kids wake up so early, despite doing everything right. I would make sure that he stays in his room until the official wake up time. Let’s say that’s 6:30am, and he wakes up at 5am. Go in when he wakes up, but let him know it’s still time to sleep until 6:30am. If he’s still crying in 10 or 15 minutes, go back in and let him know again that it’s still time to sleep. Keep doing this in the same 15-minute increments until you hit 6:30am. Basically, it’s less about calming him down or even getting him back to sleep as him learning that yes, no matter what, it’s still time to sleep until 6:30am.

  22. My child is 12 months so not really old enough to explain “go back to sleep”… he has the same issue, it was 7am then kept creeping until we are now at 4:30-5 for weeks now. He takes one nap from 12-2 usually and is asleep by 730-8 or so. So it is already a pretty late bedtime with only one nap. His room is completely dark and we have white noise. So I have implemented everything and when he does wake up we will either go in his room and hold him to try and get him back to sleep or at the very least keep him from screaming for 1-2 hours. But nothing is working. He keeps waking up at 5 or so every day. Help!!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Jennifer! I wonder if he needs two naps…? At 12 months old, maybe he’s not ready to drop to one nap yet. I would also do check-ins instead of trying to hold him back to sleep. Even if he doesn’t know exact words, he can learn to put himself to sleep with consistent sleep training. You can keep checking in until the official wake up time.

  23. Hi Nina,

    Our almost 3 year old has recently dropped his nap almost 2 months ago, that and the change with daylight savings he now wakes up at 5.30am with no nap most days he is absolutely wreaked by bedtime 6.30-7pm. If we go for a drive I can get him to nap but most of the time cap it at 30mins so he still has a good awake window for bedtime. Hes in a single bed now so gets up and comes into our room when he wakes up, I put him back in his bed but hes up again in 2 minutes!! This continues until I give up after a few times or until dad gets up for work at 6am. I have tried putting him to bed earlier but that didnt help not and havnt done a later bedtime because he is so tired. He use to be such a good sleep and would just chat to himself in his cot, sometimes not waking until 8am!! We also use his room.for time out, so I dont want him thinking he is in trouble by locking him in his room.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Latoya! Do you have a baby monitor? You can put it in his room and “speak” to him over the monitor the second he makes a move to get out of bed. Or you can stand by his door to remind him to go back to sleep. And maybe don’t do time out in his room so he associates it with positive experiences. I hope that helps!

  24. Hi. My 2 year old has been waking up at 5am for a very long time. He either has a split night issue or has an early morning wake up issue. His morning ideal wake up is 6:45/7am. I’ve reduced his nap to only 1 hour in the afternoon from 1-2pm and his bedtime is 8:15pm. But he’s still waking up at 5am and he cries and makes noises on and off in his bed out of frustration. I end his bedtime only at 6:45pm but by then he’s woken the whole house up with his screams and cries. He also has his twin sister sleep in the same room in the crib next to his and he lands up waking her most days with his cries. Room is dark, white noise on. Been trying to fix his sleep issue for the last 3/4 months and we’ve now just come down to 10-10.5 hours of total sleep in 24 hours but any changes in the nap routine or what time we put him in bed makes no different to the early morning wake up time or split night.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Nupur! It can definitely be concerning when kids aren’t getting the sleep they need and waking up so early. Have you considered lengthening the daytime nap to perhaps 2 hours? The longer sleep might help him feel better rested come bedtime, which can lead to an equally restful morning.

      If that doesn’t do the trick, maybe try doing check-ins in the morning until the official wake up time? Check in and let him know that it’s still sleep time, then close the door. Come back in 5 minutes with the same message, and again at 10 and 15 minutes (and every 15 minutes thereafter) until 6:45am. With consistency, he learns that he really does need to stay in bed, if not to sleep, then at least to wait until wake up time. Good luck!

  25. Hi Nina,
    My 26 month old wakes up around 5-5:30am give or take, every day. She has done this for a very long time however it was never an issue as she is happily and quietly stays in her cot until I came in and get her up for the day at 7am. When she is in a good mood she is so happy and bubbly, but overall, she is grumpy and unhappy more often than not and I wonder if it may be to do with her sleep schedule.
    When she is at home, I put her down for her nap at midday. Most of the time she will wake around 2/2:30pm but I don’t get her up until around 3pm as it seems she likes that extra time laying in bed and it gives me more opportunity to get my jobs done. She goes to daycare 3 times a week and on these days generally has around a 1-1½ hours nap at around midday. When I pick her up from daycare she is very tired! I aim to have her in bed at 7pm each night but sometimes this is more like 7:30 – especially on daycare days.
    What would be your suggestion to get her to wake up an hour or so later in the mornings? I am hoping my girl can be happy more often than she is grumpy.
    Thank you

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Renee! It’s definitely rough when kids wake up so early and aren’t happy about it. If she seems tired after daycare, she might not be getting enough sleep there. I wonder if there’s a way you can communicate with the staff to try to stretch her sleep to what you do at home. Ideally she would sleep 2 hours midday.

      If that’s not something you can change, see if you can put her down earlier than 7 or 7:30pm. She might be so overtired that it’s keeping her restless and not letting her fully sleep at night (and hence the early mornings). You might try 6:45pm for a few nights and see if that can help stretch her sleep so she wakes up later in the morning.

      Then, over time, you can put her down consistently at 7pm and ideally she could get up at 7am the next morning.