Toddler sleep is tough enough….but add in early rising on top of nighttime waking and short naps? That is a problem indeed! Early waking can be a particularly tough problem to tackle with toddlers, since they’re so much more mobile and (and often more strong-willed) than babies. While an early-rising baby will cry, an early-rising toddler will climb out of bed, walk into your room, and insist that it’s time to get up!
Clearly, then, the problem of toddlers who are waking too early is one that needs fixing, and fast! Read on for our 5 sure-fire tips.
What Is “Waking Up Too Early” For A Toddler, Anyway?
Now remember that ‘early’ is a relative term – for some parents, a 5:00 wake-up time is ideal, while for others, anything before 8:30 is considered “way too early”! That’s why it’s a good idea to establish an objective “waking too early” standard against which you can judge your situation.
As a rule of thumb, if your toddler’s wake-up time is after 6 a.m. and he or she is waking up fairly happy and refreshed, then you likely don’t have an early waking problem on your hands. A wake-up time of 6:00 or later is reasonable and developmentally-appropriate for most babies and toddlers, provided they are getting adequate nighttime and nap time sleep.
That said, if your child is waking before 6 a.m., and/or seems cranky and tired first thing in the morning, then you likely do have an early-rising issue on your hands.
Why Is Your Toddler Waking Up Too Early?
Your toddler may wake too early on occasion due to a variety of different factors, including….
- ….traveling (and sleeping in an unfamiliar setting).
- ….sleep regressions.
- ….potty training.
Remember that occasional and intermittent early waking is nothing to worry much about. If you can trace the cause of your toddler’s early waking to something temporary, like one of the factors listed above, then simply work on getting back on track as soon as you can.
However, if your baby regularly wakes too early, then it’s likely you have a scheduling problem to solve.
Two Common Causes of Waking Up Too Early (And What To Do About It)
- Nap Timing: It may be that either the timing of your child’s naps are off, or the length of the naps themselves are off. For instance, the transitions from two naps to one, and then from one nap to none, tend to be really tough and can lead to a host of sleep issues, including early rising.
- Bedtime Timing: We preach often about putting babies to bed early, because sleep begets sleep. But older toddlers who still take an afternoon nap may actually benefit from a later bedtime. If you put a toddler to bed early, he may not be tired enough for sleep and may instead bounce around his bed for hours before he finally falls asleep.
Baby Waking Up Too Early? Here’s How To Fix It
So your toddler is waking too early. At this point, you probably know what’s causing the early waking….but how are you supposed to fix it? Good question!
First, you’ll want to start treating your toddler’s early-morning wake-up calls as night wakings, and not “start-of-the-morning” wakings. This can be tough, especially if your toddler is able to get out of bed and wander out of her room. It’s fine to get up and offer comfort, or to get up and return your toddler to bed, but try not to get your toddler up for the day. If you do, you’re merely reinforcing that this early-morning waking is fine and normal and part of the regular routine.
If, after a week of treating early wakings as night wakings, your child is still waking too early, then begin making schedule adjustments. Do you need to work in an extra nap during the day? Do you need to shift the timing of any naps, so that your toddler has less awake time during the day? Do you need to move bedtime earlier, or possibly later? Do you need to offer a bedtime snack? Gradually make these schedule adjustments, while still treating any early wakings as night wakings.
Generally, following these steps will resolve most early waking problems. If you’re still struggling, however, you may need a more expert approach to solving your problem.
For more early-waking help, check out our members-only ebook, Shift Your Child’s Schedule. It includes helpful tips designed to shift your child’s schedule either forward or backward so as to fix early- or late-waking problems. Members enjoy unlimited access to this e-book at no additional cost.