Hello, Highly Caffeinated Parents!
No, it’s not an illusion. Indeed, the little ones seem to be launching an earlier-than-usual morning rebellion. It may feel like a covert mission executed by the infant regiment to take over the household (and your sleep), but I assure you there’s a perfectly understandable explanation. As the delightful spring and summer months roll in, a certain… number of emails, DMs, and text messages regarding your children’s wake-up calls might have caught my attention.
So, why are the adorable bundles of joy rousing us with the dawn chorus? As it happens, they’re simply adhering to their internal clocks, known as circadian rhythms, largely influenced by light exposure. For children used to waking up at the same time each day, the light they perceive during awake times “sets” their body clocks.
The Sleep Foundation states that summertime sleep disruption is virtually inevitable for the majority of children. Longer daylight hours in summer cause shifts in their internal clocks, also known as circadian rhythms. The brain’s internal clock uses light cues to instruct the body when to wake up and when to sleep. More daylight in the summer equates to more awake time! It may appear as though children have an internal rooster, hollering “cock-a-doodle-doo!” with every sunrise. Indeed, children are more light-sensitive than adults, which could clarify why they arise earlier in the summer. As humans age, structures in our eyes gradually become less light-sensitive. But children, possessing larger pupils, exhibit increased light sensitivity. Evening light exposure has been observed to suppress melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, twice as much in children compared to adults.
You might think, “I’ve got this under control. I’ve got the most effective blackout blinds money can purchase!” Even so, despite the best blackout blinds, a child might still wake with the dawn. This is because children respond not only to visible light but also to the rise in ambient light, subtle temperature changes, and the vibrant dawn chorus. Our little ones are more in tune with the natural world than we can ever envision!
Now, understanding the why is one thing, but what about the what – what can be done about it? That’s where I step in. While many children will wake earlier until there’s less sun exposure, these tips may help in the meantime.
Blackout your room: Follow the BBS rule – if you can see your hand in the dark in the middle of the day, it’s too bright. Use painter’s tape and thick garbage bags to keep the room dark.
Be conscious of temperature: check the TOG rating of your sleep sacks (lower TOG number=cooler for baby). Ensure your toddlers and preschoolers are going to bed in breathable cotton or bamboo pyjamas. Use a thermometer like the gro-egg to monitor the room temperature (and not your monitor–these are notoriously inaccurate)
Reset YOUR expectations: for some kiddos, the summer months mean early mornings. Children cannot be programmed and don’t follow adult sleep rhythms. Set an earlier bedtime for yourself that includes a delightful, indulgent routine you will be keen to adhere to, boosting your motivation to try an earlier bedtime. Share wake-up duties with my spouse or co-parent if an earlier bedtime isn’t working.
Consider the early morning masterclass: BBS does not work with early morning ents because they are so hard to ‘fix’ and sometimes not ‘fixable. The class is $29 and contains all the tips, tricks and tools we suggest to our private coaching clients. Click here for more information.
We know that the early morning wake-up calls can be a bit of a challenge, but remember, this too shall pass. If you have any questions or need more tips, feel free to reach out to us.
Keep shining, parents of the Sunrise Squad! You’ve got this! ☀️
- Establishing a summer sleep routine for kids. (2021, May 24). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/summer-sleep-routines
- How does blue light affect children’s sleep? (2020, September 24). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep