5 Causes of Early Morning Wakings

Is your little one ready to start the day at 5AM? Is this early morning waking happening more days than not? Very early mornings can be exhausting and oftentimes impact the rest of your baby or toddler’s daytime sleep. Another characteristic of early morning wakings is that they can be quite stubborn.

First, what is an early morning waking exactly? An early morning waking is defined as any night waking that is happening after 4AM but before 6AM.

Here are the the top 5 reasons early morning wakings for babies are happening

  • Exposure to early morning light.
  • It is important to keep your little one’s sleep environment super dark until 6AM. If they are in a light stage of sleep, they are more likely to wake up for the day if there is light peeking into the room. I suggest using blackout curtains and avoiding any nightlights in your little one’s room until they are 2.5 years old.

  • Bedtime is too late.
  • You would think it to be the opposite, but if your little one is overtired at bedtime they are more likely to experience an early morning waking. A sign that the early morning waking is due to overtiredness is that your little one falls asleep in less than five minutes at bedtime and wakes up upset/frustrated in the morning. If this is the case, I suggest shifting bedtime earlier. Even a 15 minute shift can make a difference! Between the ages of 5-24 months old, I recommend a bedtime between 6-7 PM. 

  • Too much daytime sleep/undertired at bedtime.
  • On the contrary, if your baby or toddler is sleeping too much during the day, they might be completely refreshed by 4-5 PM. Although total daytime sleep varies by age, there are some signs to watch for that your little is undertired at bedtime. Some tell-tale undertired are your little one taking 20+ minutes to fall asleep at night while playing in their crib or they are happily waking before 6AM to start their day. 

  • Parents are responding too early.
  • Parents can inadvertently reinforce an early waking by responding right away. It is helpful to pause and give your little one some space to fall back asleep. I suggest keeping stimulation to a minimum and their sleep environment very dark until at least 6AM. 

  • First nap is too early.
  • Similarly, getting in a routine of offering a nap too early can reinforce the early morning waking. When the nap happens prematurely, their little bodies view the nap as an expansion of night time sleep. If your little one is showing sleepy cues before an age-appropriate nap time, it can be helpful to step outside to comfortably get them to the ideal nap start time.

    Safe Sleep Practices
    As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, safe sleep is my number one priority. It is important to always put your baby to sleep on their back for the first 12 months and only have a fitted sheet + swaddle/sleep sack in the crib. It is also important that your little one’s sleep space is not too warm. The ideal temperature is between 68-72° F.

    About Michele

    Hi there! My name is Michele Wawerski and I am a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and a mother to two wonderful boys. I serve families that have children ranging from 0-6 years old. Sleep is not a one-size-fits all, so it is essential I get to know each family I work with and develop a unique sleep plan for their child. I have a passion for understanding the unique needs of every family and I cannot wait to hear from you! You can find me here and I would love to have you following along on my Instagram page. Sweet Dreams! 

    Dream Weighted Sleep Swaddle, 0-6 months