Experiencing a sudden early morning waking with your little one this summer? You may notice as the weather gets warmer and days longer, your little one is getting up earlier and earlier. A consistent early morning waking makes you scratch your head as you think you are doing everything right. Bedtime is early enough, daytime sleep is restorative, and you’re not being an obstacle by going in to help them fall back to sleep.
So what is with the early morning waking?
Our body has it’s own 24-hour internal clock. This circadian clock tells our body what time of day it is, which helps set our daily routine of eating, sleeping, and even going to the bathroom. Our internal clock is mainly run off of external cues from our environment with light being one of the main factors. Because of this, our rhythms can change annually. During the winter months days are shorter and darker, and our bodies go into a state of semi-hibernation where we tend to sleep longer hours. Our ancestors would sleep more during the colder months as it helped their bodies conserve energy when food supply was low. Once summer hits we tend to have shorter sleeping hours as the day’s get longer and brighter, and our circadian rhythms adjust to the annual season. So we actually sleep less in the summer but even as this happens we still need to respect our body clocks and our need for sleep. Unfortunately what ends up happening is we carry on with our short summer sleep schedules into the winter months when our bodies are needing more sleep and suddenly we have a chronically sleep deprived family unit.
What can we do?
When our little one wakes up early in the morning and you know that all of the basic sleep fundamentals are being practiced, the best thing you can do is just stick to their usual routine and your usual method. Consistency in the routine and the norm should remain as such no matter what season we are in. You may have to deal with an early riser for a few months but if your child is happy and content in their sleep environment there is nothing wrong with allowing them the chance to hang out on their own until mom and dad say it’s time to get up. Remember a natural wake time can be as early as 6am, even 5:30 am – shudder! So genetically there may not be much you can do to extend that wake time but it doesn’t mean you all have to get up at that time. In a perfect world we would want them to be sleeping until 7am, but they may never sleep until that time. They can though be happy and content in their room until 7am. Working on having them feel safe and secure in their environment and not needing you right away can be just as important as working on getting them the sleep they need.
While we may not be able to take full control of wake time during the summer months there are a few things that you can do to possibly extend that early morning sleep in:
- Install blackout blinds and cover up those bright evenings and mornings. Get that melatonin flowin’!
- Use a white noise machine to mask early morning sounds like birds and traffic.
- Stick with your child’s usual bedtime. Pushing it out later and later will only make those mornings get earlier and earlier. Trust me!
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.