It’s 5:30 am and something has woken you up. No, it’s not your alarm clock, it’s that little rooster down the hall who has decided, with certainty, that the day should begin. If you’re the parent of a little rooster, rest assured you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for our little ones to be early risers. As night turns into day our children have already put in a big shift of slumber. Outside light and awake hormones are starting to signal their bodies to wake up and noise is disruptive during the lighter stages of sleep.
So how do you convince that little rooster to hit the snooze button on his early morning wakes? Here are some tips to keep all that cock-a-doodle-dooin’ to a minimum and establish a consistent and reasonable wake up time.
If your child is an occasional early riser (once or twice a week) and plays happily in his crib, leave him be. By doing so you will be discouraging the early rise and your child will learn that it is not yet time to wake up. If his early morning wakes are happening more regularly you may consider making an adjustment to his bedtime.
Trying an earlier bedtime may seem like the last thing you should do but there is evidence that suggests that children who go to bed earlier benefit from better night time sleep and delayed morning wakes. Try putting your little rooster to bed 30 minutes earlier for four or five days to see if he sleeps longer. If he doesn’t, consider becoming a rooster yourself.
If 5:30 is your child’s hour of choice, set your alarm for 5:10 and gently wake him up. Keep the room quiet and don’t say more than you need to. All you’re looking for is that your child has stirred a bit. By doing this you will re-set his internal clock. He should fall right back to sleep into a different stage of the sleep cycle. Try being the rooster in your family for one week to determine if you’re making progress.
If you’ve tried all of these tips and that rooster continues to cock-a-doodle-doo at 5:30 am, push bedtime back by 15 minutes per night until he is going to bed an hour later. It’s possible you have a child who only needs 11 hours of sleep. Expect that it will take your child a week to make the transition to a new sleep schedule.
And remember that sleep is a skill we learn. Little roosters are capable of learning how to press the snooze button and rise and shine at a reasonable hour, all with a little help from you and the chicks at SleepWell Baby.
Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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