Struggling with your toddler waking at 5am? You’re not stuck with early mornings. Learn effective ways to get your child to wake up later.
I thought I was in the clear. My son had been sleeping through the night from infancy and into toddlerhood, waking up like clockwork at 7am the next morning.
But then, the wake time began creeping earlier and earlier. At first I didn’t think it was too bad, figuring I’d start the day earlier and adjust nap times. Except those few minutes kept stretching, and I couldn’t keep justifying waking up so early.
The morning wake ups got to the point where they were cutting into my morning routine. I wasn’t able to wake up earlier than everyone else and enjoy the quiet morning. He was such an early riser that even I was still asleep.
There was no way I was going to let 5am be his new early wake up time. None of us would be getting enough sleep. I knew kids woke up early, but that early?
What to do with your toddler waking at 5am
Thankfully I found a few techniques to keep him in bed and sleep longer. Different ways to nip it in the bud and get him to wake up at his regular time again at 7am, not at the crack of dawn. Once I applied these tips, the wake up times did indeed inch their way later in the morning and back to his normal time.
And even if he happened to wake up a few minutes before 7am, he knew to stay in bed until I got him up.
I hope you can apply these tips and guidelines with your own toddler. Because you’re not stuck with 5am mornings. Your days can start when you determine them, not when your child wakes up ready for the day.
1. Aim for 11-12 hours of sleep at night
As hard as it is to admit, your toddler waking at 5am may be normal if bedtime is at 6pm. While a 12-hour stretch is ideal, not all young children need that many hours of night time sleep (especially if they’re taking long naps, too).
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 6pm, stretch it to 6:15pm for a few nights until he gets used to that. Then, aim for a 6:30pm bedtime. Keep pushing it back until you reach the time you’d like him to go to bed.
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2. Set a wake up time
It’s tempting to allow your day to start when your toddler wakes up too early and won’t go back to sleep. He may fuss, cry for milk, or call for your attention. For any parent trying to go back to sleep, this is almost impossible.
But be firm with his wake up time as you would with bedtime. You don’t have to start your day at 5am because he’s awake. Instead, teach him to wait and understand that wake up time doesn’t happen the minute he’s up.
How? Practice sleep training with strategic check-ins.
First, come with the right mindset, especially on your first few attempts. This means expecting that he’ll probably wake up at 5am, not hoping he’ll sleep in (and feel disappointed when he doesn’t). Remain calm and focused, knowing you’re here to solve a sleep 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, do make sure that everything is okay—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 talking or 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 c heck in. Not all kids can or want to go back to sleep, especially if there isn’t a lot of time left anyway. It’s fine for him to lie down quietly in the crib and wait for you to come get him up for the day.
What to do when your toddler wakes up too early crying.
3. Determine how much sleep your toddler needs
Figuring out your child’s sleep needs starts with taking a big picture of his sleep patterns. It’s easy to assume he should wake up much later considering how late he fell asleep the night before. But take a look at his sleep needs not only the previous nights but in general.
For instance, while 12 hours of overnight sleep is ideal, some kids can get away with 11 or even 10 hours of sleep a night. He may not need the full 12 hours and instead is ready to go with 10.
You also want to take a look at daytime sleep. Taking several long naps can be keeping his nighttime sleep short. If so, you can:
- Adjust naps earlier in the day: This allows for a lengthier awake time before bedtime, which can lead to later mornings.
- 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 time 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.
Get more tips on what to do with your toddler waking up too early.
4. Keep the room dark and use white noise
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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 nights, the curtains block most of the sunlight and signal that it’s still time to sleep.
I hung darkening curtains like these:
Another must-have is white noise, which is another signal to keep sleeping. It can also muffle sounds that can startle him awake, from sounds in his own room, to 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 like the one below, to apps, or even using a regular fan or heater.
5. 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 he had to make to adjust to a new sleep cycle. But through routine and sometimes by need, he had to make do with a new sleep schedule. You can help his internal clock adjust to a later wake up time in a similar way.
You’ll also want to focus on improving his naps. As they say, “sleep begets sleep.” The better quality his sleep is during the day, the better his nighttime sleep will be. Make sure he’s not overtired to the point that he can’t get a good night’s sleep.
Many parents have recommended using a light up toddler clock that signals when it’s time to wake up and get out of bed. While he may not be able to tell time, he can use the lights from the alarm clock to know when it’s okay to get out of bed:
Early rising is difficult for the entire family. Perhaps the worst feeling is assuming you’re stuck with this new way of sleeping and waking up. You’re afraid this is how it’s always going to be and will need to accept these new changes.
But I’ve learned that we can change many of these disruptions. Some simply take time, as in the newborn stage. But others only need a bit of knowledge, consistency and helping your toddler find a new time to wake up.
Start with figuring out how much sleep she needs in the first place, then aim for 11-12 hours at night by fiddling with naps and bedtimes.
Set a designated wake up time, checking in every 15 minutes should she wake up and fuss before then. Keep her room dark and with plenty of white noise to make the environment conducive to sleep. And finally, be consistent with your routine to help adjust her internal clock.
With these five simple tweaks, you can have your mornings back once again—all with her asleep, not awake, in bed.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your Toddler Is Hysterical at Bedtime
- How to Establish a Solid 2 Year Old Bedtime
- Top 6 Tips to Get Through the Toddler Sleep Regression
- 6 Ways to Resolve Your 2 Year Old Sleep Problems
- Transitioning to a Toddler Bed at 18 Months
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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!
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 crazy, 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
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
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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!
I should add that we did put one of the door things on it so he can’t turn the knob and escape.
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). Also, >check out this article on separation anxiety at night, where I also list a few more tips:
I hope it helps Rachael!
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
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? (https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/self-soothe/) 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!
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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: https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/self-soothe/ 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!
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?
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!
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.
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!
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?
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
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.
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.
I should add he falls asleep at 750/8p
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
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?
Our bedtime is typically 745-8pm. We’ve tried adjusting both ways and doesn’t seem to alter the time she wakes up.
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!
Thank you so much for the response!! I will try your recommendations!!
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.
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.
What age group do you feel this is aged to?
Nina Garcia says
Hi Anna, this is based on when my kids were 2-3 years old.
Erin S. says
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!!