Most parents know the dread that comes from hearing little voices calling for you at 5 am raring to start their day. If this happens once in a while you might just accept defeat, get an extra cup of coffee and start your day. However, if this becomes the everyday routine you’ll soon feel the effects of all that lost sleep. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your child to sleep in a bit later.
Check if bedtime is right
Every child is different, so every child’s ideal bedtime can be different. The ideal bedtime for a young child is between 6:30 pm and 8 pm, with a bedtime routine beforehand to signal that it’s time for sleep. Keep in mind that your child’s nighttime sleep with probably be a maximum of 12 hours, so aim for a later bedtime if you want later mornings. You can adjust bedtime gradually by making it earlier/later by 15 minutes each night until you’re at your desired time.
Pay attention to wake windows
Your baby’s wake window is the appropriate amount of time that your little one should be awake between sleep. Wake windows are an important aspect of a baby or toddler’s sleep schedule to prevent overtiredness. For example, an appropriate wake window for a 12 month old is between 3.25 and 4 hours, with the longest wake window before bedtime. So if you plan on putting your 12 month old to bed at 8 pm you’ll want them waking up from their last nap around 4 pm.
Babies, toddlers and young children don’t sleep like adults. As an adult, going to bed exhausted will result in a long deep sleep (unless we’re interupted of course!). However, exhausted little ones will struggle to connect sleep cycles, resulting in restless and short sleep.
Active days and peaceful evenings
Good nights start with good days. Ideally you want to get all your child’s energy out during the morning and early afternoon. Allow your little one to expend all their energy early in the day with activities like visits to the park and engaging sensory activities. During the evenings, especially in the 2 hours coming up to bedtime, create a calm environment so your child can start to wind down before bed. Avoid screens during this time as they are highly stimulating and can suppress the production of melatonin (your body’s sleep hormone).
No fun before 7 am
While it’s very tempting to turn on the TV at 5 am to occupy your child while you drink your coffee and try to come alive, this can reinforce the early wake-up time by waking up their senses. Your best strategy is to treat a 5 am wake-up the same as a midnight wake-up. This may convince your child’s internal clock that it’s not time to wake up yet.
Check for discomfort
Just like you would at a midnight waking, check for a dirty nappy, hunger, teething pain, etc. and address the need as you would during the night. Try to stay in their bedroom to avoid stimulation and give yourself the best chance of getting them back to sleep.
Block out the sun
Blackout curtains are an important tool for establishing good nighttime sleep routines in young children. Our bodies are naturally designed to wake up when the sun rises, so sunlight peeking through the curtains will signal to your child to wake. During the summer this can result in some very early mornings and late nights. Create a consistent sleep environment for your child by using blackout curtains and a sound machine to block the sound of singing birds.
Some children are naturally wired to wake up earlier due to genetics. Consider whether you or your partner would consider yourself a morning person. This can help you to have realistic expectations for your child. Maybe 6:30 will be the best lie-in you can hope for!