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Why is your baby waking early? The common causes of early rising!

One of my most common questions is why is my baby or toddler suddenly waking at 5am, and how do I get them to sleep later. Whilst this may come as a shock, there is usually a reason why this is happening, so let's take a look at the common causes.

What is actually considered to be an early wake?

Most babies/toddlers will naturally wake for the day between 6-7am. However, anything prior to 6am should be considered an early wake and there are multiple reasons why they could be waking this early.

Are they going to bed overtired?

Is your baby taking short naps or having a very late bedtime, then waking cranky in the early hours? When babies get overtired cortisol levels increase, leading to increased wakefulness overnight and early wakes. In this case, look at bringing their bedtime earlier, to promote longer stretches of sleep overnight. Also follow their age-appropriate routine and ensure they’re getting enough restorative day sleep.

Have they simply had enough sleep?

If your baby has gone to bed at 6pm, and they consistently sleep for 11 hours, they may have had enough sleep by 5am. If so, consider pushing their bedtime later in 10-15 minute increments, to help push out their morning wake time, and slowly allow the sleep to shift.

Is it loud in their room?

Is it loud outside your babies window in the early hours of the morning when they’re in very light sleep? If so, try using a white noise machine to block out the sound.

Is it TOO bright?

Light is one of the major contributing factors in resetting our biological clock each day, when we’re exposed to light it sends signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up. So try to ensure your babies room is as dark as possible, to avoid light creeping in at sunrise using a blackout blind/dark sheet.

Is your baby waking hungry?

Is your baby genuinely hungry at their early wake time? How long has it been since their last feed, or have they gone the whole night without a feed so far? If so, try to offer a small feed and resettle.

Is their first nap too early or too long?

Is your baby treating their first nap as an extension of night sleep? If their first nap is happening too early, or it’s too long, this can reinforce the early wake. If you’re currently following a medium-medium routine, you may need to adjust to a short-long and ensure your first nap happens no earlier than 8.45/9am if your baby is over 4 months. Both of these routines are available in my 4-12 month sleep guide.

Have you troubleshooted everything, and they're still waking as early as 5.30am? Then, consider if your child is a natural early riser, which is based on their chronotype. Early birds have a genetic tendency to wake early and fall asleep early as a preference. However, outside factors can help adjust this, by being exposed to light later in the day and dark for longer periods in the morning.

If you still need help figuring out what might be causing your baby or toddlers early rise, I recommend getting in touch for a "chat with me" consultation, so we can get to the bottom of those stubborn 4/5am wake up calls!

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