weebly statistics
Home About Links Contacts Show Show

When Your Child Wakes Up Too Early

by Amelia on December 3, 2008
category: 3 – 5 years (preschooler),5 – 12 years (kid),Health and Fitness

wakingup.jpg I am not a morning person.  I love to sleep.  The lack of sleep that comes with having children is probably my biggest personal challenge (and sacrifice)–well, that and staying calm when the children are not listening to directions–but that is a whole other topic. We prefer to have our kids go to bed on the earlier end (oldest and middle child with no nap=b/t 6:45 and 7, with nap= 8:30 or maybe 9, baby=b/t 6:30 and 7:00).  We parental units like to enjoy some sit in front of the tv time to decompress quality time together.  The unfortunate problem with this is that our kids tend to get up early and when they get up TOO early–it is often way before the chickens are stirring from their coops.  Like before 6am.  Anytime before 6:30 is too early in my book–7:00 is perfect.

When we moved the oldest and middle child to the same room this summer we ran into some problems.  They either accidently or purposely woke each other up.  Middle child had a habit of pooping around 6 a.m. in his diaper.  Rolling around in poo and smelling up the room probably woke up oldest child.  Before we moved older child into middle child’s room, middle child would hang out in bed for a long time quietly talking or resting and would get up when he heard others up.  Older child loves people so when he wakes up wants to be around ANYone and EVERYone.  No leisure time in bed for him. You can see how this could be a problem with room sharing.

4 and 5 year olds don’t always understand that waking up their siblings can be a very selfish thing to do–not to mention it can really make mommy’s day miserable. Especially if she is dealing with 2 children who did not get the right number of hours of sleep.  More whining and fighting anyone? We recently took out their lamp on their nightstand because one brother (I’m sure you can guess who) would decide to turn it on when he woke up–didn’t matter what time in the morning, and didn’t matter if other brother was sleeping. And trying to explain that other brother was whinier, grumpier and less pleasant to be around didn’t phase him.  Grrrrrrr!  And of course the lamp lighter brother had the biggest attitude about going back to bed. So what do you do when your kid gets up at the crack and refuses or “can’t” (aka WON’T) go back to bed for sleep or rest?

We have tried several things, some worked better than others:

1. A few years ago, we put a lamp on a timer so older child would know when it was okay to get up and out of bed.  It seemed to work for a while but then he figured out how to mess with the timer and/or unplug it so we stopped being consistent with it.

2. We have finagled with bedtimes to see if that helps.  We love the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and have moved some bedtimes up earlier so they would sleep later.  Counterintuitive I know, but it does work.  Overtired children are more likely to wake up more often in the middle of the night and wake up early.  Have you ever noticed that when you have a late night out your kids wake up at their same ol’ time or EARLIER?  I am always hopeful they will sleep in–but I keep reminding myself that when they become teenagers and hibernate in their rooms sleeping through the mornings on the weekends I’ll get to really get to sleep in myself.

3. Patiently (keyword: patiently) leading them back to bed to rest until mommy or daddy come get them.  It may only be enough time for some slight dozing or snuggling on the parental end but at least I am cozy in bed and not starting my day yet.  I have had my fair share of mornings being grumpy, mad mommy insisting they go back to bed but that only makes it WORSE–they resist more and I get all riled up so I’m definitely NOT getting any more sleep.  I’m too busy kicking myself for getting frustrated and trying to tell the adrenaline to shut off.

4. Teach them about time with a digital clock.  This is obviously better for older kids but it has been working a little at our house.  We had a special “training session” where I taught the kids how to get out of bed, open and shut their bedroom door quietly so they wouldn’t disturb the other person sleeping.  We practiced getting out of bed and using “quiet feet” (we have wood floors on 3 of the 4 levels in our house so it often feels like we live inside a drum) several times. They had a lot of fun with it.  I also have been going over with them almost daily that when the clock says “6:0_, 6:1_, 6:2_, 6:3_” then it is too early to get up and out of bed.  They can lay in bed quietly (and we practiced several examples of what is NOT quiet) and then come out when the clock says “6:4_”.   They can say it verbally back to me but when it comes down to practice they are still a little sketchy about it.  Sometimes they forget to look at the clock, sometimes they read the numbers in the wrong direction–I mean they are 4 and 5 so of course it is going to take them a while to get it down.  They have surprisingly had a lot of fun with all this training and are proud of themselves when they get it right.  It still seems like they wake up at the same time more often than not. We have also been working on teaching about time with an analog clock just to help them with time in general.

5. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I just saw a little blurb in Parents Magazine about it and I am seriously considering ordering one.  A Good Nite Lite was designed by a dad whose kid kept getting up at 5am. He designed the night light to glow like a sun when it is daytime and okay to get out of bed, and like a moon to show that it is still nighttime and to stay in bed.  It costs $35 bucks which might be worth it for some extra sleep.



I realize that this post is geared for older kids in big beds, not babies.  That is a different post that maybe I’ll write about another time.  I have some experience in babies that get up too early too.

So, what do you do when your kids wake up too early?  What has worked for you?  What has been the biggest disaster? 

15 Responses to When Your Child Wakes Up Too Early

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Trina
    December 4, 2008 @ 11:15 am

    I have a 22 month old. How old is your baby and how long does he nap?

  • Gravatar December 4, 2008 @ 1:38 pm

    Me! I have a kid who gets up too early. He’s almost 3. I put him in a big boy bed about 6 months ago or so. It was bad. In a crib he wakes at about 6:30 and will play quietly until I go get him at about 7:00. In a big boy bed he was getting up earlier, and earlier, and earlier. Finally one day he got up at 4:45 and I lost it. Picture a crazy woman putting a crib back together at 5 am by the light of a night light.

    He’s been in a crib ever since. I know that isn’t going to last forever… but I’m scared.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sara
    December 4, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

    Sorry ladies I am no help here either. We are just recently having problems with my 2 year old and 3 year old. They share a room and sleep in different beds. Our problem is trying to get them to sleep. They have now discovered that they can get out and play with each other. They have been sharing a room for about 6 months but just figured this out. We put them to bed between 7:45-8pm but latley they have been staying up till 9:30. As for waking up once one wakes up the other is right there behind them. On a good day everyone will sleep till 8am. On a bad day (like the other day) they are awake at 4:45am. Those days were rare but now they seem to be more regular. So any suggestions would be great!!

  • Comment by Amelia
    December 4, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    Trina: My baby is 15 months old. He is still on the 2naps a day schedule for now. I think in the next few months he’ll go down to one nap. His nap lengths vary from day to day. Sometimes (like today) we get a giant 2.5 hour nap in the morning but that usually means the afternoon nap is an hour or less. Sometimes I get 2 one hour naps. Sometimes 2 1.5 hour naps. I just kind of go with the flow. I haven’t tried pushing him to get down to one nap yet. I don’t think he is quite ready for that one.

    Ashley–I can totally picture crazy woman putting a crib back together! All too easily! I just had a harrowing nap experience myself with oldest child. He has gone to bed late 3 nights in a row and has been waking up earlier every morning. We just had world war 3 to get him to lay still in his bed. He was doing almost everything possible to push my buttons to make me lose it–but thankfully he did not succeed today. I ended up having to take off the ladder to his bunk bed so he would stop putting his feet on it and lay still. Internally I felt like I was a ticking time bomb. And I felt sad for middle child because he was doing everything right–laying still under the covers and trying to go to sleep but older child was getting so much more attention because he was the one throwing the fit. I kept praising middle child and telling him thanks for following mommy’s directions. Makes me wonder if older child is just wanting some extra attention. He recently switched to the top bunk and I don’t think he feels like he gets all the snuggling he wants because it is hard for us to get up in the top bunk. Just processing here.

    I think when kids learn they have more control over their environment 2 things happen: curiousity and push mommy/daddy buttons. Ha! I have control so I’m going to use it!

    Ashley and Sara: Have you tried supernanny’s go back to bed tricks? Where you just quietly and non-angrily put the kids back to bed. No talking-just put them back in bed over and over?

    Sara–I wonder if moving them out of each other’s rooms temporarily would help them. Then you could reinforce the “nighttime rules”–stay in bed, eyes closed, be quiet etc. and then once they are getting that down you could try room sharing again.

    We like to use consequences for bad choices but sometimes it is hard to come up with things. I know for a while, we started taking toys out of oldest kids room everytime he got out of bed. That wasn’t really a strong currency for him though because he just wanted have control and be around us–not play. But that might work for some kids. Then, when they start staying in bed and following all the nighttime rules you set they can have their toys back one at a time.

    other possible consequences…taking a favorite toy or tv/movie/computer time, no extra activities like dance class, art class what have you

    I really recommend Parenting With Love and Logic for Toddlers and Preschoolers. The book encourages parents to offer TONS of choices on the things that don’t matter as much to you–but matter to them. Then when it is time for you to make a choice you say something like, “Didn’t mommy give you a lot of choices earlier….like what jammies to wear, where you wanted to sit while we read books, if you wanted to tuck yourself in or mommy to, what goodnight song you wanted to hear, night light on or off…” Now it is mommy’s turn to make a choice–you need to stay in bed/go back to bed quietly. If they choose not to then you tell them what their consequence will be. I can’t do the book justice and we are still reading it ourselves. When we use it, it usually works and I have found myself realizing that I control too much of their environment and can give them lots more choices than I allow them to make.

    Right now I just wish my oldest would listen to his body when it is tired and to just lay down without a huge fight. He doesn’t always NEED a nap and I know that–but sometimes mommy knows best. I usually know when he starts kicking and flailing around on the days I mention it–those are the days he does need one–and when he fights it most. Ironic. I get worried that he’ll be in college and will be a sleepless zombie because he convinces himself he doesn’t need to sleep when he really does. I know I am totally rambling–I think I am processing what just happened.

    Ashley–maybe the good nite lite would be a help for your son. or a lamp on a timer.

    It is so hard to stay calm when bedtime battles start–for me anyway.

    I don’t know if any of those suggestions help or not–but maybe they will spark something!

  • Comment by Sharon M
    December 8, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    Ugh. We do a lot of overseas traveling and it’s a PAIN to get the kids on a schedule. That’s probably my biggest struggle. My kids are “up with the sun” people (sometimes before), and that can be really hard when you’re body is telling you one thing and the sun something else :)

    I think the best we can do is be firm and consistent. I used to put an alarm clock in my son’s room when he got up too early (I’m like you Amelia, anything before 6:30 is a no-no), so he could play quietly if he wanted to while hubby and I got a couple extra ZZZZs. When the alarm clock went off he was free to bug us :) As far as the bedtime battles go, I think that (generally speaking) if you have a quiet bedtime routine (ours is bath, warm milk, brush teeth, story, lights out) it really helps. There are periods of resistance, especially if you have a willful child (like me!!!!!), but most nights there isn’t a big fuss.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    December 16, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

    Our five-year-old is a great sleeper. There were several weeks when he was 2 or 3 where we’d find him on the couch in the morning because he had gotten up in the middle of the night. But otherwise, he sleeps well until morning.

    We were thrown for a loop when the baby was born. We had forgotten what nights were like with a little one. But I tried turning out his nightlight as soon as I read this article, and it worked! He’s slept straight though every night these last two weeks. :)

    THANKS for sharing the tips and your experiences!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kristi
    May 4, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

    How refreshing to read your comments! We, too, LOVE Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Things were working great until the daylight savings time change. Now I have a 14month old & 36month old who start making sounds around 5:50AM every day. I am SO discouraged, as I am waking up earlier & earlier to try to be ‘ready’ for my day before they wake. I believe it’s a light issue with the 14month old and a light issue/gotta-go potty issue with the 3 year old. After reading what you’ve written, I feel good knowing I’m not alone. Thank you! We’re going to darken their rooms more, but does anyone have a trick for my 3 year old who is woken by a full bladder? And does anyone have tricks for being ‘ready’ for the day before the kids wake up?

  • Comment by Amelia
    May 4, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

    Hey Kristi,

    I don’t have any helps with the full bladder thing, unfortunately. My kids are still in nighttime gear because they don’t wake up and go. Maybe you could wake up your 3 year old before you go to bed to pee so his/her bladder isn’t so full?

    I don’t get up before the kids do. I love sleeping too much! We all get ready together in the morning. What do you mean by be ‘ready’ for the day, just out of curiousity? Sometimes I have to let go of precious expectations I had for myself as patterns and life changes with the kids. Maybe that that would help you too?

    I’m glad you found us!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Elizabeth
    July 3, 2009 @ 4:43 am

    Its so good to read everyone’s thoughtful comments. I’m having a really hard time. My girls, 4.5 & 2.5 just started sharing a room. They have been going to bed really well since I’ve made an effort to tire them out in the afternoon and follow a consistent bedtime routine. They even stay asleep throughout the night.

    What’s been making me crazy is the little one waking up the older one earlier and earlier (6:30am, 6am, 5:30am) and then waking up the whole house. My husband works late and so we desperately need at least until 7am. I’ve tried everything i can think of. They have the sleep rules posted on the wall and know them by heart, they both have alarms set to 7am and the younger one has a picture of ’7′ so she knows. I even let them alone if they play quietly if its a reasonable time (6:30am) but recently, once the little one wakes up the older one (5:30am today), they stomp around, giggle, fight, pee in the bath, turn the room into a tornado zone and wake us both up. Aaaah!

    IF they follow the rules they get a lots of praise/treats the moment they wake up. But it rarely gets to that point. Its happened only once in a week, (the day before yesterday) and was followed by a 5:30am chaos this morning. So i feel its all so negative. The mornings feel like ‘you didn’t follow the rules so…’ (no treats/tv) and i’m just dying for it to work and i can shower them with praise. urgh!

    I’m wondering if i should put the girls in separate rooms. But before they shared a room, the little one would go into the older one’s room when she woke up. We tried preventing the little one leaving her room (rope, bribes, rules, praise) but it didn’t work (little one yelled so hard she woke everyone up). I figured they might as well share.

    Does anyone know what i should do about the little one waking up too early? She naps (1.5hrs). She goes to bed at 7:30pm but still wakes earlier and earlier. I know its not because she’s waking up naturally but that she wants to play with her sister. Now we are all very tired and grumpy.

    Help please!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    July 3, 2009 @ 6:32 am

    Hi Elizabeth–

    Wow, that sounds tough. I have a few suggestions for you.

    1) If she consistnetly wakes up early, then you might want to try putting her to bed earlier than 7:30 for a few nights so she doesn’t get so behind on sleep that she starts waking up early because she is overtired. I would try putting her to bed around 7–or maybe a little earlier to see if that helps her wake up a little later. And it will help her to get the normal accumulated hours of sleep she normally needs.

    2) We had some friends with some bedtime issues–their situation was her kids were getting out of bed after they had been put to bed but before they fell asleep. They used a ticket system that worked really well. Each of their (2) kids got one ticket when they went to bed. If they came out of their room, they got their ticket taken away. If they still had their ticket in the morning they got a sticker on a chart. Once they had so many days of stickers they got to go to this really cool candy store to pick out some candy. Their kids are 4 and 3. Before my friend set up the system they went to the candy store and the kids did get to pick out a few things. Of course because it was such a fun place, they wanted to go back. Well, in order to go back they had to get so many stickers on their chart by having their tickets in the morning.

    Because your daughter is 2.5 I would make a big, fun looking ticket. I think the benefit of having a ticket to hand over if she gets out of bed too early is that it is something tangible that she has to give up or give to you to get her sticker.

    On another note, you can’t MAKE a child sleep (as much as we would like too!). Maybe you could have your youngest sleep in her old room again until she gets the ticket system down. I like the ticket system because it reinforces the positive instead of taking away something.

    Other thoughts, do they have a lot of toys in their room? Maybe you can do some toy rearranging and keep some quiet approved toys in their room.

    I hope that helps a little or at least give you something to work from.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Elizabeth
    July 5, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

    Thanks Amelia, those are great ideas. You’re right that my little one was in danger of being overtired (and then waking up early) as this weekend at my inlaws (who have blacked out curtains etc) she slept ’til 7:30am plus a 2 hour nap! She was no doubt exhausted.

    So i’ll try blacking out the curtains. Put them in separate rooms until its under control again and try the ticket system. Its a great idea, i love the thought of an extra large colorful ticket. As you say, its about having positive reinforcement.

    You know the funny thing is i had it down when i used gummy worms as a reward in the morning but after a while (a month) i wanted to phase it out and switched to a better treat (chocolate cookie) if they stayed in their beds for 5 mornings (marked by stars on a chart) but they lost interest (maybe 5 mornings was too long). So i know it works, i just need to get the motivation back.

    But then i have a question: what if she gets out of her room early to wake up her sister but i don’t know about it until i come in at 7am? Do i take the ticket away at 7am when I come in, or do i make sure i hear her getting out of her room, say at 6/6:30am and take the ticket away then and return at 7am to see who’s got a ticket? If i take the ticket away only at 7am it becomes a negative thing (oh, you didn’t stay in your room so no ticket/treat/tv scenario) or if i take it away at 6:00am then what motivation does she have to stay quiet until 7am since she’s already lost her ticket?

    Its almost like she wants to follow the rules but by morning time its all too exciting and impossible to resist. I’ll just have to make the treat unbelievably good, right?

    So if i get that under control so they both stay in their rooms playing quietly with toys (i’ll put some more in) until their alarm goes off, can i use the same rules/rewards for when i put them back to sharing? At some point this summer we’ll be traveling and they’ll be sharing, so i need to know how to motivate similar behavior when together.

    oh i just love this site, it really has very helpful comments.

    More advice please :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Elizabeth
    July 5, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

    More questions about the ticket system:

    Is there a way to stop the act of taking away the ticket turning into a ‘taking something away’ scenario? Like for example, have it on the door in a pocket and the parent subtly removes it and the child has to check to see if its there in the morning like a surprise? Or does it work best when the child sees the ticket being removed? In which case, how to prevent a midnight tantrum?!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by fey daoudi
    March 2, 2012 @ 8:23 am

    My two year old wakes up at 5:30 everyday, no matter his bedtime. help how can i get him to sleep till atleast 6:30 or 7?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kristen
    November 10, 2012 @ 6:09 am

    I feel like you were talking about me! I have a four year old and a three year old boys. They sleep in the same room. My older boy gets up at 4 ish most nights and I spend every morning from 4-7 trying desperately to put him back to bed without waking everyone up, but it never ends well. Both boys end up waking up. Not to mention my 14 month old who is sleeping in my bed with me. My husband works away on a 14 day schedule, so I am doing this all on my own with no sleep. I desperately want to be a better mom. I don’t want to be so grumpy and sleepy. If I just got some more sleep, I could handle anything.. I feel like I’ve tried everything. I let him get up without me and I wake up to flour everywhere or a huge mess of canola oil one day. I feel like he needs a cage. Lol. I tell him it’s the middle of the night, but he doesn’t care. What’s worse, is he is so tired by 2 or 3 in the afternoon, he is a pest. I feel like ive tried everything, but not consistently. I want to start over on a clean slate. What do you think I should start with first (again)?

    It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone. It’s easy to think when I’m exhausted that I’ve made all the mistakes and that I’ve “ruined” my children. Haha.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Chanel
    December 11, 2012 @ 2:53 am

    i’m 13 and i only sleep till 6:30 am and i’m ALWAYS SO TIRED!! but i’m not tired as in sleep because i TRY and TRY to get back to sleep after i’ve woken up at 6:30 but i can’t and i would just lie there trying to get to sleep but just end up getting up and every one know would love to sleep in till 12 pm every day but i honestly CAN’T!!!! PLEASE HELP ME!!

Leave a comment


Blog Ads: