Episode 4: How Not To Be Awake at 5AM AKA Early Mornings SUCK | Baby's Best Sleep

Amanda gives you the inside scoop on how to battle those pesky early mornings! Desperate to sleep in past 5 am? This one’s for you.
Bringing her real-life experience and as many tips and tricks, as 20 minutes will allow, Amanda is here to help you make mornings as easy as A B C!
Want more info about early mornings? Find more on the blog here!

Hello everyone and a happy spring day to you wherever you are! Officially outside, it is sunny and I’m, I’m taking it on guys. I really am taking it on because I’m so sick of clouds. I feel like this winter sucks and this spring is sucking, in Toronto anyway, and every time it says it’s going to be nice outside. It’s been really shitty and it’s depressing. And today, you know what, I had very low expectations and the sun is shining and I’m taking it on.

Guys, I’m a little bit jazzed cause I just finished a really exciting interview. I can say it now cause we actually have a recording down with author and researcher and economist, Emily Oster and Emily wrote two of my favourite books, expecting better, which is a book about all of the data behind common pregnancy recommendations. Like, don’t drink coffee. Um, she actually goes down all the rest, you know, eating Sushi, the Listeria risks and I think kind of takes some of the hysteria out of pregnancy. So I really loved it. I really appreciated that book. It made me somewhat saner.

Emily wrote Cribsheet in order to help parents make data-driven decisions. And you know the basic theme of her book is that there are many good decisions to make and here’s the information on it in case you can’t make one that you want. And guess what? There are lots of good ways to do this parenting thing, which I kind of love. And she talks a lot about sleep, sleep training – we go into a little bit about what the evidence says in our interview, but all in all, I’m really excited for you to listen and that should be next week or the week after depending on how long it takes to edit. But I’m super excited for you to listen to it! And in the meantime, you should buy Cribsheet because it’s awesome and may give you a little bit of a heads up on our conversation.

But this week we are talking about early mornings. I mean I don’t even have a proper listener question this week, to be honest. I have no fun email to read to you from a client because my Instagram and my email box are full of questions from random people. “Okay, this is great. I really appreciate the 4 Month regression thing, but what about early mornings? What about early mornings past clients? Oh my God, my kid’s getting up so early, what do I do?” So we’re going to talk a lot about that today and what is going on? Your kid is not broken. This happens to me every year. Spring is the worst. I am always kind of joked that spring is bad for business because babies wake early and winter – as soon as you know, daylight savings happens, it’s a little darker. It’s like awesome. Everyone’s sleeping well. I actually talked about this when I was on CTV. I talked the October sleep slump cause we all feel so tired and then spring comes and we’re like, “Nah man, I’m awake. I’m going to be awake all the time..” So we’re going to talk a little bit about that today. I’m going to talk to you about some strategies that you can be employing to help your children sleep a little bit longer in the morning because I think that it sounds like many of you are suffering right now, so let’s jump into that.

What is going on biologically, right? What is going on with your baby who does not want to sleep in? You know, you might’ve had that baby who is sleeping until 7:00 AM, and then all of a sudden you have a week of, you know, 5:30 AM wake ups. There are many reasons why that could be happening and we’re going to talk about a few of them. The big one that I want to talk about first and foremost is that waking up a little bit earlier, you know if it’s within a reasonable time, makes total sense right now. Why? Because we’re creatures of this sun. Okay? We create Melatonin when the sun is gone. Okay? So the sun goes down. Our body senses that it’s a little bit dark. We start producing Melatonin to kind of get us a little bit sleepy. It’s just an indicator to us like, “Hey, it’s dark and you should be sleeping!” And that’s a really important thing for us to have. And if you think about any time you’ve gone camping, right? I talk about this all the time that you know, when I went camping I would look down at my watch and be like, oh my God, it’s eight o’clock and I feel like it’s 11 o’clock and it’s because our Melatonin has been going. We have no artificial light. Light prevents Melatonin from producing. And so when we’re in those conditions, we tend to go to bed earlier and we tend to wake up earlier because we are creatures of the sun. When the sun comes up, we wake up, we want to wake up. So actually little bits of light are the indicator for your brain to stop producing Melatonin and to produce some cortisol to wake you up in the morning. So we need all of these things. These are great survival mechanisms that tell us to be awake and be alert. And so, you know, I want you to keep this in mind that what is happening is very biological and so, therefore, it is absolutely no accident that every April/May when the sun starts to come up, usually after time change, babies tend to start waking earlier in response to the sun.

And so the sun comes up and I would say it can start peaking, peaking its little head up but 4:30/5 and if you have a, a light-sensitive child that it might be really stimulating and exciting for them to wake up, right? They see this and they’re like, great. I mean my five-year-old is still telling me at five 30 some days because I am also dealing with early mornings, “hey mom, the sun is up, the sun is up.” So she’s right. I mean she’s just a human. So I want you to keep that in mind. That’s going to be my basic thought for you. Okay. That if, if your, your children are light sensitive and it is spring, it’s probably harder to put them to bed is probably easy for them to wake up super early. And you know, that’s probably what’s happening.

Okay. Now there are also other reasons for early wakings and we’re going to talk about that today and you can kind of listen and do your checklist to see where you are on that thing. So if you think, oh man, I am kind of doing that or this is what’s kind of happening,” these are some things that we can do right away to kind of change things up a bit for you. So the first strategy I’m going to, I’m going to communicate to you is, you know, keep it simple. If you think that your child is sensitive to light, if they are waking literally around the crack of dawn, then it might be a light issue. So, you know, my first could sleep with a little bit of light and it was never an issue, you know, it happened, but she didn’t have these long, prolonged wakings or early mornings. But my second, oh my gosh, as soon as the sun came up, she was up like 4:30 AM in the morning and happy, you know.

But I’m not sleeping through LA LA’s. I’m not sleeping at all. So I went to a very tasteful route and I got all of the garbage bags in my house and I taped them to her window and it’s all the problem, like literally almost immediately. You know, I talk about this all the time, but if there is even a sliver of light in your room, it is too much. You might have to make your room like a panic room. And I know that seems a little bit crazy, but it can work for a lot of people and it’s a cheaper option than hiring me or calling me. So I’d want to start there and I’d want you to try that for about two weeks because if your child has been getting up for, you know, a week at 5:30 AM and we don’t want them to get up at that time, their body clock is kind of set to that waking now.

So they’re probably going to wake up 5:30 for a little while, see that it’s really dark and then it’s going to take some time for them to put themselves back down until a reasonable hour. And it could take up to two weeks to make that shift. So if that does happen, again, don’t panic. I would just keep up with it for two weeks. And you know, in a good way to test it is try to put up those garbage bags during the daytime. So when it is super bright, you can shut the door, turn off the lights and be like, okay, can I see my hand? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably too bright or it will be too bright in the morning. They will get some sense of the sun, so you want to make sure that you can’t see your hand in that, you know, if you can see it, so can your child and just make sure that they’re not. So yeah, that’s an easy one.

Number two, there is some evidence to suggest that potentially an early bedtime can reset your circadian rhythm in the morning. And I’ll explain why. So like I’ve mentioned in episode two all about why your child isn’t sleeping, I talk a lot about sleep cycles and how no one is actually sleeping straight through the night. We’re all sleeping in a series of cycles, right? We connect that cycle, connect that cycle, connect that cycle, and then we wake up in the morning. Now if we start that cycle a little bit earlier, it means that the last to second last sleep cycle ends earlier in the morning. So let’s say you, you know, have been putting your child to bed maybe a little bit later in hopes that they would sleep in. When we pull back a bedtime a little bit, maybe you know, half an hour, an hour depending on what time your bedtime is. That sleep cycle, it can, you know, instead where it’s ending at 5:30 maybe it’s ending at 4:30 when that sleep cycle ends at the 4:30 time, you might be able to get, you know, one and a half to two hours more sleep than you might get a 6:30 bedtime when your child connects another sleep cycle. So, you know, it feels sort of counterintuitive, but for some kids, all I’ve really had to do is pull back bedtime a little bit. So you may want to try that. It can be really helpful. At the very least, if you are in this situation where your kid is just a sunflower, a creature of the sun, it’s not really gonna matter what time you put them to bed their going to wake up with the sun. You might want to start with an early bedtime anyway just so they get more rest and they’re not super cranky the next day. That’s really important. So if it’s gone on for a really long time, just pulling back bedtime a little bit. So I mean that’s what’s happening in my house. My kids are up at about six o’clock every day. I would see for a while in the winter we’re getting to about 6:30/7 most days. So now they’re up at, you know, just before six, six o’clock. And so we’ve put them to bed early. Put them to bed about 6:30 when, when they’re doing this. So that can be a strategy, just a coping mechanism anyway.

The third thing I would love for you to be thinking about is what’s going on with your older kids. Now, there are some kids, they might be napping or they might not be, you know, as your kids get older, for sure the more sleep equals more sleep thing still applies. But there is a limit to how much your child can start sleeping. Right? So at around, you know, two and a half, three we might want to start thinking about limiting some of the sleep. So if your child is sleeping two to three hours a day and then going to bed at 7 and you want them to sleep till 7, that’s a lot of sleep for a two and a half and a three year old, you might actually be looking at too early of a bedtime where they’re legitimately running out of sleep pressure by the time 5:30/6 rolls around. So for some of you with older children, it might be about, pushing, pushing bedtime up a little bit. And that’s in the instance of probably a child who is on the cusp of dropping the nap is still napping but maybe doesn’t need to be. You are going to have to push up bedtime because too much sleep does start to impact your mornings. Some point on this same note as you know, too early bedtimes, even with some babies we could be getting too much daytime sleep. Again, this goes against all of our beliefs that you know, more sleep equals more sleep. That is going to be true for a lot of kids, but again, your kids can’t sleep 20 out of the 24 hours a day, right? There does need to be some time that we are awake to build adequate sleep pressure. So sometimes when I have clients who have super early mornings, a lot of the things that those clients share is a lot of daytime sleep, so they could be sleeping. You know, I would say when your child is between four months and a year, like probably you know, four to six months, we’re looking at maybe three to four hours a day sleep, maybe a little bit lower than that for some six months to 12 months, we’re looking at, I would say the two to three hours Max. So if your child is getting more than that during the day, if they’re consistently sleeping four to five to six hours during the day, they may legitimately not be awake enough during the day to build up the sleep pressure they need to sustain a long day or their naps might be total total total crap. We can’t even get them to a reasonable bedtime. We keep putting them down at 6/6:30 and then legitimately they have nothing in the tank at five. So if that is you, that could be something that you need to work on, right? If your naps aren’t long enough or sustaining or pushing out farther enough to get you to a decent bedtime, you are going to continue to get those early mornings because I mean for some kids they don’t have 14 hours of sleep in them. That’s, that’s really hard for a lot of kids. Then I would suggest like if your nap game isn’t strong, it’s probably worth looking at doing some nap training. Calling me, we can kind of get you back on track.

Another thing to consider is white noise. There are some instances, especially you know in Toronto there’s a lot going on in the mornings. There are garbage trucks and sirens and you know that dog next door that’s always let out at 5:00AM, or maybe you know you have an air conditioner that comes on at a set time. These are just little sounds, but in those early hours of the morning we are primed to be alerted by those. Right. So like I said, our melatonin production is getting less and less. Our cortisol levels are rising. So any sort of stimulation is going to be hyper arousing around that time. So the addition of some white noise, if you’re not already using that can be really helpful. You know that dog next door, you’re not going to hear them. Or maybe you or your partner get up to go to work and the car goes off and that’s enough to wake up your child. Most white noise, set between 40 and 50 decibels (I wouldn’t say any louder than that. Not any lower) is adequate enough to, to keep the noise out. And remember, white noise is not asleep association or a sleep crutch. White noise is really there to block small noises. It allows you to flush your toilet. It allows you to talk to your partner, you know, big girl voice or a big boy voice. These are all things that you can do to, you know, again, I’m all about that real life stuff, live your real life, flush your toilet like a human. You can do that and white noise can help you do that.

So one of the things I always like to talk about is if we took a video of you sleeping and we watched you twist and turn and all of that stuff, you would actually be quite surprised and how active you are in your sleep and how you might have moments that you’re awake and aware. And you don’t really know it, especially in those early morning times. Like I said, when our Melatonin is lower, our cortisol is rising to wake us up, we’re actually more awake then maybe you remember. For our babies, they are very much the same. We know that babies circadian rhythms starts to replicate ours around six months. So you know how we feel when we are tired. They start to feel, I really suggest removing or monitor. In my blog I wrote to throw it out. You don’t have to throw it out. It was probably expensive. Monitors are awesome during the day and I really liked them. So you can put your baby down and kind of walk around and live your life and not really feel like you have to have your ear to the door the whole time. But during the night if you have a house that allows for it and not everyone does, but if you do have a house where you’re right next to your baby or you know you’re pretty close, you can probably get away with not having a monitor because monitors are showing us things that we don’t necessarily need to know. Lots of our babies are kind of getting up stirring. They’re happy. They might be awake for even a half an hour and then they fall back to sleep. We don’t need to be rushing in and we don’t need to go in there. I think those monitors pick up everything. It’s going to make it really hard for you to fall back to sleep and especially if it has any video capabilities, which most of the monitors we have now do a looking at those screens kind of makes it really hard for us to calm our brain down and drift back to sleep. So getting rid of your monitor and kind of actively, or not so passively ignoring your child if they’re okay, I think is fine. Now, I’m not saying ignoring a screaming child who’s losing their mind. I’m saying, if you’re a child seems okay and they don’t need you and they’re not crying and they’re talking. Babies aren’t programmed to be like, “I’m not fine and I’m not telling you, and I’m being very passive aggressive right now here at my crib, ignoring it”. Like it’s just not how they work. So don’t ever worry that you’re ignoring your child’s needs. If you fall back to sleep, it’s probably because they fell back to sleep. We’re pretty in tune with our children, especially when they’re babies. So I think it’s okay to do that.

This is a, this is a smorgasbord of strategies, guys. This is a good one.

Another strategy that you could use would be to shift your, your baby’s rhythms slowly. So like I said, if your child has been waking up for a quite a few days in a row where they are, waking up at like, let’s say 5:30, right? Just suddenly implementing these strategies isn’t going to work overnight. Like maybe blocking the light might do that. But you know, what I might do is attend to them a little bit later and later. So you know, every time we expose our children to light, so if we open the door, we opened the windows that’s light or food, so if we feed them, okay we’re starting our day, the body sort of like self programs and I was like, “Hey, this is when food is here, we should get up because food is coming and then the light comes and then it’s time to start her day. So you can just delay exposing baby to food and lights by, you know, 15 minutes every three to four days. So if your baby’s getting up at, you know, 5AM, god forbid I wouldn’t go to them until 5:15, nothing bad will happen to meant to them in those 15 minutes. And you’re going to do that for three days, 5:15, 5:15, 5:15, they should start to shift a little bit. Then you can start pushing by another 15 minutes, 5:30, 5:30, 5:30, I would push that for as long as you can get it until you can get to the reasonable hour of 6. If your child can get to 6, they’re going to be okay. All right. You don’t have to worry about them being over tired, that’s actually a decent night for most people. Provided your bedtime’s not midnight, you know, midnight.

All right guys, if you have done all of those things and it has been two weeks and you’re doing all the things and you know your baby is falling asleep independently, I mean that’s always the caveat to all of this information. If you are still helping your child asleep, if they’re nursing, if they have a pacifier, if they’re using a bottle, if they’re being rocked, whatever your, your case is, if they still are being helped to sleep, it’s going to be even 10 times harder to push out those mornings because they cannot go to sleep on their own. So I guess a caveat is to make sure to all of this that your child is falling asleep independently. If they’re not, call me as soon as your child is sleeping independently. A lot of this stuff works itself out. Your naps are gonna lengthen, bedtimes are going to be easier. You’re probably going to get later mornings.

If, if, if, if you’ve done all of those things I’ve mentioned if your child is sleeping independently, you just might have an early riser and they exist and I know that’s not what you want to hear. For some children it’s really appropriate to be up at 5:30 and that really sucks and provided their bedtime is at the appropriate time and they’re getting enough daytime sleep, it might just be a phase that goes away if they are getting their recommended amount of sleep. It’s kind of like, you know, getting blood from a stone, right? It’s, it can be very, very challenging. But like anything, you know, there are no instant fixes in life and I think it’s really important that if you’re trying any of these strategies, that you are continuously trying them and not just for a day, nothing works for a day. Nothing even works in three days. If you think about the general time change, like going from you know, ahead of one hour to falling back an hour, that hour it takes us two weeks to get over, you know the tiredness that we feel, it takes two weeks. So give your baby two weeks. If all of that fails and your still not kicking butt in those mornings you might want to give me call, there might be something else or you might just have an early riser and then you need to get better coffee and go to bed earlier.

Okay, that’s it for this week guys, between the podcast that I just recorded and this. I have talked to myself, well actually no I shouldn’t say I’ve talked to myself cause I did talk to Emily Oster. It wasn’t officially by myself. I taught by myself in a room for a really long time today and most people might identify that as insanity. So I better cut it quick here. I’m going to link to my early wakings blog in the episode notes of this week show. Also, there’s always a full transcript of every podcast so you can go back and highlight in print the things that you like and use them. And that’s at www.baby’sbestsleep.com/slumberparty and you’ll find a transcript for every episode.

And as always, guys, if your kid is not sleeping and you’d like to some poor, you can definitely book a call with me. If you are looking to work with a consultant, you can do that at www.baby’sbestsleep.com/15mins. Keep those questions coming guys, they are fun! The weirder the better! I had someone write me a couple of weeks ago and said, I feel like weird. Here’s weird. And I liked it. It was a good one. So stay tuned. Thank you for joining me for another slumber party and have a super great week. Bye Bye.