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.
31 thoughts on “Toddler Waking Up Too Early? 5 Tips To Help”
Hi, my son is 15 months old and is taking two naps (10am-11:30am and 3pm-4:30pm). He usually goes to sleep around 8pm. He is night-weaned but still nurses at 7am before breakfast and at 7:30pm before bed. He can fall asleep independently. We have battled early waking with him pretty much his whole life. There have been little spells of a few weeks here or there that he has slept until 7am ish but most of the time he wakes up around 5am. I have never gotten him up for the day at that time. I have been consistently starting his day around 7am since he was tiny. I always treat his early morning waking as a night waking. I know that he is not ready to get up at 5am because he is really cranky and clearly still tired. Often what happens is that he will be awake from 5am-7am when I go in and get him up for the day. Then he just wants to fall asleep while I nurse him. So I have to try to keep him awake so it doesn’t throw his whole day’s schedule off. I am curious if you would suggest trying to transition to one nap, or move bedtime earlier or later, or if I should be adjusting when I nurse him. I am just kind of at my wits end and am not sure what else to try. Thanks!
Hi @Michelle –
Thank you for writing to us, and I’m sorry to hear about your toddler’s early waking! Early wakings can be tricky and tough to figure out! If you haven’t already, I would recommend checking out this article on our blog about transitioning to one nap:
This will help you determine if your little guy is ready for this!
Since he is still so tired when he wakes at 5am, I wouldn’t recommend a later bedtime! Do play around with earlier and see if that helps, but as I said, early wakings can be tricky!!
For more help, I’d like to recommend our VIP Members Area, which gives you access to all of our e-Books as well as audio tele-seminar recordings, case studies, and do-it-yourself tutorials, including a workbook designed to help you create your own sleep plan. My favorite feature is the access to our weekly “members only” expert chat sessions, where one of our sleep consultants will answer your specific questions live via chatroom! I think that this would be very helpful for you so that you can ask one of our experts (join and ask new questions every week, if you’d like!) You can also write a message on any of the pages within the VIP Area, and a Sleep Consultant will reply!
The Members Area subscription is very affordable, and available in sizes to fit every budget. Members also receive 20% off of all personalized sleep consultation services, should you find that you would like even more personalized assistance.
You can read more about our VIP Members Area here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/diy
Thanks again for visiting us Michelle! Please let us know if you need any additional assistance at any time.
What about needing to wee??!
When they wake at 5, they need to wee, just like the rest of us.
Babies and kids instinctively don’t want to wet themselves, so they call out for help. I have a potty in my 20month old’s room. When she wakes, I pop her on, then she’s comfy to go back to sleep. I’ve done this since 2 weeks old. Otherwise I’m just training her to wee in the nappy. Hard habit to break
Hi @Alex –
Thanks for writing and for sharing how you help your little one! We’re glad that you found something that works well for your family, and hope other families find this helpful! Thanks again for your tips!
Help my 20 month old has been consistently waking up between 5 and 5:30 for months. We’ve tried letting her cry, feeding her but nothing seems to work. She takes one nap a day after lunch, and puts herself to sleep and goes to bed quickly.
Hi @Lauren Bernard, thanks for writing to us! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with early waking. As the article mentions, it can often be a scheduling shift that needs to take place, but we all know how hard it can be to figure out what needs to change! Here is a link to a sample schedule for a toddler, and you can scroll down to see the “one nap” schedule: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/
If you’ve tried all the tips the article explains and believe her schedule is fine (or are not sure what else to try) let us know. I think in that case you would most benefit from working one-on-one with our sleep consultants who can look at her whole sleep history and try to help. Here is a link to read about the different personalized services we offer: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly at [email protected]. Hang in there! I hope this helps point you in the right direction!
Hi, I’m wondering if you could provide any insight. My three year old has been waking up at 6 after less than 9.5 hours of nighttime sleep (she usually falls asleep at 8:30 even if her bedtime is at 7:30). She’s obviously not getting enough rest bc She is incredibly grumpy in the morning. She takes a 1 hour nap in the afternoon. We keep her room very dark and have a sound machine. She usually wakes up after 7, but in the past week she has been waking up early. She doesn’t climb out of her crib, so that’s good, but we can’t get her until after 7 since we’re getting ready for work. Is this just a regression or phase, or do we need to make a change?
Hi @Essie – Thank you for writing to us about your three year old! I am sorry to hear that she is not getting enough sleep right now! We know how brutal those early morning wakings can be, and you certainly want to do what you can to have a well-rested and not grumpy girl in the morning! With older toddlers, it’s all about setting limits and being consistent, so keep offering that earlier bedtime, and giving her that chance to fall back to sleep in the morning as you have been! Hopefully it passes quickly!
If you find that you would like more help, you may want to consider our 5 Step Toddler Ebook.
You can find out more about this EBook here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/5-step-system-toddler
Good luck Essie!
Hi my 3 year old son keeps waking at 5pm. He is clearly still tired as he is rubbing his eyes and by 11/12 he’s is normally very tired. We no longer have naps so just have rest time for an hour the go to bed about 7.30pm. We have tried earlier bedtime and later bedtime but he will still wake up around 5/6am.
Any idea tips?
Hi @Caroline, thanks for writing to us. I am sorry your toddler has been waking up so early! We have a free guide available for toddler sleep help that you may be interested in and can sign up to download here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-tips
If you read through the guide and it’s not specific enough for our situation, you may find our ebook on toddler sleep which goes more in depth helpful which you can read about here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/5-step-system-toddler/
I hope this helps!
My child is 2 yrs old and has been waking up between 4/5:00 every day this week. He also has gotten up in the middle of the night and whines a bit (Momma hold you). He goes down at 8 every night and has no issues going to sleep or fighting sleep at night or nap time. He is still in his crib with no issues. His nap is usually around 12:30 and he naps anywhere from 1.5-2 hours. Do we need to move up bedtime, shorten his nap?? Is this just a regression? His usual wake time is 6:15/6:30.
Hi @ Nicci – Thanks for writing; we would love to help! If your son was sleeping well previously, Sleep issues are very common right around the 2nd birthday! Typically this is just a phase. Most toddlers, within a matter of weeks, return to their usual sleep schedule. The key is to remain consistent with how you are putting to sleep and how you are getting him back to sleep to avoid creating any sleep associations that could linger after this phase passes. Here are a few links that may help:
And here is a link to our sample toddler schedule, to use as reference to be sure you are offering sleep at generally good times: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/
Hopefully things smooth out quickly! Do please keep us in mind if you find that you would like some one-on-one help from an expert!
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