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Early rising - Why does it happen and how to combat it.

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Early rising is up there as one of the most common concerns parents ask me about...

So a really important starting place when thinking about early rising is our biological chronotype; Owl (eveningness) or Lark (morningness). Pretty self explanatory but owls tend to have more energy later in the day, go to bed later and want to wake up later. Larks have a strong burst of energy in the morning and naturally feel tired for an earlier bedtime.

Babies and young infants are naturally larks but not all parents are...I definitely fall further into the owl tendency and have had my own struggles adjusting to this. I talk about this because sometimes a parent struggling with what they feel to be early rising is actually just a battle between two different chronotypes.

Anything past 6AM (sorry all) is not considered early rising for a little one even if for you as a parent that feels a touch early.

TOP TIP - For any parent who is an owl, try edging your own bedtime earlier every few nights by 15 minute increments. Making a huge jump to an earlier bedtime won't sit well with your body clock, but a slow and steady adjustment could result in an early enough bedtime that your child's wake-up time is less problematic.

Treating early rising

To treat early rising it's about shifting factors that are influencing your little one's body clock to rise so early.

Bedtime - This one can be a little trial and error as both a too early bedtime and a too late bedtime can both be causes of early rising. If bedtime is too early then they may simply be getting the amount of sleep they need by that early rise. If bedtime is too late and baby is getting overtired then this can cause night wakes and early rising.
Keep is dark - A technique you could try is that when your little one wakes, instead of accepting it and getting up for the day, keep it dark and quiet in their room with you in there supporting them. Do this for about half an hour and then pop the lights on, open the curtains and announce it's daytime. Keep pushing this time on until you hit the optimal 6AM. This is to teach your little one that wake up is because of environmental cues like daylight.
Daylight - Expose little one to as much daylight during daytime hours as possible. This helps solidify their body clock and circadian rhythm. During the winter months keep lights bright.
Naps - Make sure your little one is getting their age appropriate naps and that these naps sit somewhere in the middle of the wake window. A nap that is too early in the day just consolidates the early wake up. A nap too close to bedtime will push bedtime back and the pattern continues. Naps are also key in preventing overtiredness.
Meal times - Our circadian rhythm is affected by our regular meal times. Allowing an extremely early breakfast following an early wake may solidify that early wake in place. Try slowly edging their breakfast later until it is at a suitable time.
A tip for slightly older children - If your child is in a bed and able to get up, you can leave some safe and quiet toys out for them in their room to entertain themselves until a reasonable hour. This won't work for children who would find it too exciting and wake up specifically to play but for some little ones it can be that extra half an hour or so that makes a big difference to you.

Your little one's biological chronotype as a lark is not something you can change. However, focusing on these external factors can really aid setting their circadian rhythm into a workable and appropriate routine.

A LITTLE SIDE NOTE - There's a pretty famous clock with blue lights that is very commonly used to combat early rising...the problem is, blue light is well known to inhibit sleepy hormones and so having this clock in their room can possibly cause issues. Perhaps using a digital clock with red lights and working towards teaching your little one the number 6 would run less of a risk of the clock inhibiting their sleep.

Of course, if you are worried about anything and are struggling then hop over to my contact me page and drop me a message and we can discuss working together to make any changes you need. Or have a look at my packages to see what I offer.

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