It’s summer! Time for warm sun, sand, evenings that stretch into late nights and THE EARLIEST MORNINGS IN THE WORLD BECAUSE YOUR CHILD GETS UP AT 4:45AM. Ahem. Excuse me.
(Amanda, awake with her first child at the crack of dawn. She looks happy. But she is not)
While you may be enjoying the long summer days, the extra light in the morning (and at night!) it can really disrupt our internal rhythms. And our children are not immune!
The top questions I’m receiving at the moment are: how do I get my child to sleep later? Why does my child get up so early? Will I ever sleep in again? Do you do house calls at 4:45? (No, FYI)
Before we admit defeat to early mornings you can try the tips below
(for 3-4 night each! No change happens in 1 night).
1. UP YOUR BLACKOUT CURTAIN GAME: If you see any light, its not dark enough. I’ve been to clients houses who insist to me that their room is dark enough but, if you see any light. It is not dark enough. Make sure baby can’t tell the difference if it’s midnight or noon. And I mean EVERY single ounce of light. Pin your blackout curtains to the side of the wall (do this in the day time so you can be really sure all the light is gone). Turn off the lights after you’re done. If you can still see light, its not dark enough.
Why? Our circadian rhythms are greatly impacted by light. Basically, our children are like roosters. When the sun is up, they will crow. If they sense even the slightest sun their body shifts toward lighter sleep and wham: awake baby.
2. EARLY TO BED, LATER TO RISE? Yep, you read that right. You could try moving bedtime earlier instead for at least 4-5 days to try to change your child’s circadian rhythm cycles and it may get you another 30 minutes in the morning. I’d especially consider an earlier bedtime if your child continues to get up early. If baby going to wake up earlier, he/she needs to get that sleep at some point and you might as well get your evenings back!
3. TOO EARLY BEDTIME this may be the case for older children and a last resort. Are they napping during the day? Are they still getting a good amount of rest at night (at least 10 hours)? You may need to consider that bedtime may possibly be too early –especially if your child is still napping. This is rarely the case, but sometimes fixes the problems for older children who need less sleep.
4. WHITE NOISE to block small noises in the morning (outside cars, pets, roosters (?) etc). If you’re not using white noise yet, this is a great time to introduce it to your possibly light sleeper.
5. SHIFT SLOWLY: Although your child is rising earlier, are they happy playing in their cribs? If so, you may want to consider shifting when you go to them. If you’ve been exposing baby to food and light at 5 every day, try 5:15 for a few days. Then 5:30, then 545 etc. Our circadian rhythms are affected by light as well as food so try to prolong both (if baby allows) every few days.
6. THROW YOUR MONITOR OUT THE WINDOW Ok, just kidding. Kind of. I think baby monitors are great for when you’re in the a part of the house where you know you won’t be able to hear baby. But if your room is right next door, its unlikely you need a monitor. Otherwise those monitors pick up every.single.sound. You’re going to hear every single coo, cough, and snort coming from baby. If you’re attending to your child too early, you may actually be interfering with his/her attempts at falling back asleep. Turn the monitor off! Especially if its video. Looking at screens revs up our brains and makes it hard for us to drift back to sleep.
If all of this fails you may just have an early riser. I know that’s not what you want to read but for some children, its completely appropriate to be awake at 5-530am. I’m sorry. If they are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age and stage, there may not be an issue. My only advice is to go to bed earlier yourself, trade wake-ups with your partner, and move close to a fabulous coffee spot!
Here’s to some later mornings, parents! Good luck!