October 24, 2013

Help your child sleep in

Before becoming a mom, 8am was an early morning for me. I typically would have to set my alarm if I needed to be awake any earlier than 10am.

Oh man... those were the days...

I often see my friends complain on FB about their kids being early risers. I hear things like:

"Bobby was up for the day at 4:30am. Today is going to be rough!"

or

"Been up with Cindy since 5am again... ugh."

or

"My kids are always up before 6am."

When I hear things like that, my gut response is:

They wake up that early because you let them!


If kids wake up at 5am, and then get set in front of a bright tv, they're going to get used to that. It almost trains them to wake up that early, because the lights and stimulation mess with their internal clock. Its like when you were in college and you signed up for an 8am class.  The first few weeks were reallllly hard to get out of bed, but after awhile, your body got used to it, and then by the end of the semester, you barely needed your alarm anymore.

Same thing with kids. And it goes both ways.

Babies and toddlers don't have much concept of time, and as their parents, its our responsibility to teach it to them. Yes, we can't "control" when they wake up. But we can do things to encourage them to sleep til a reasonable time. I have picked a time that I will allow my children to get out of bed. 7am. If they wake up before that, I will patiently get up and quietly put them back to bed. Consistently.

When my girls were babies and they woke up too early, I'd change their diaper, feed them another bottle in the rocking chair, and put them back to sleep. And then sometimes go in and wake them up at 7:30am if they were still sleeping (so it didn't mess up the morning nap).

If its my toddler, I'll usually pick her up out of the crib, and snuggle her up in a blanket and rock her for a few minutes, to help her feel sleepy again.

Sometimes she will fuss or argue with me, and I will whisper things like, "Look baby girl, its still dark outside. Its still night-night time." or "The house is so dark and quiet. Daddy is still asleep, sister is still asleep, and mommy is still sleepy, its not time to wake up yet" or "Lets get you snuggy again so we can all go back to sleep."



If its my 5 year old, I just explain that its not time to wake up yet, and to go get back in bed for a few minutes. We bought her a toddler clock a few years ago like this one that lights up at a set time (7am for us!) and signals that its ok to get out of bed. When we initially bought it for her, it took quite a bit of patience on our part to enforce the habit of waiting til her "cow woke up" before she could get up. We had to get up and put her back in bed. Over and over. But after about a week, she understood and would come running into my room saying, "Mom! My cow's awake! I slept so good!" We set it a little earlier than we wanted to (comparable to when she was naturally waking up), and then gradually changed the time to later, in small increments, until she was used to the 7am wakeup.

They don't always fall back asleep, and sometimes I have to put them back to bed multiple times. Yeah, its probably easier to just get them up, turn on some cartoons and doze next to them on the couch. But to me, its worth the effort.

Update: A good white noise machineand blackout curtainscan also do wonders to help keep them sleeping!

If you thought this post was helpful, check out my tips on helping babies sleep!

38 comments:

  1. I hope when I have kids they aren't early risers, but if they are - these are great tips!

    Yvonne @ TriedandTasty.com

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    1. Says the girl who posted at 5am! hahaha :) Thanks for commenting Yvonne!

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  2. Oh man, my kids have had a bad week and seem to wanna get up early. These are excellent tips and I have never heard of a clock like that but I think I will definitely look into getting one!! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I hope next week is better for you! The clock worked great for us. :)

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  3. Okay, I'm going to need my sleep. Pinning this for later!

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    1. I hope you get lots and lots of it! :)

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  4. I pray when I have kids I'll be able to get them to sleep in. Even working full time I still have a hard time getting up before 7:30. But I also won't be putting my kids to bed at 7:00pm. That always confuses me too, their like he wakes up at 5:00 and it's like well don't put him to bed at 7:00! Sheesh. Maybe I will have a few hard life lessons when I actually do have my own kids, but these are great tips!

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    1. I hope they sleep in for you too. I have one friend who's kids don't wake up til like 9-10am. Those random sleeper-inners exist! haha

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  5. It's like you wrote this post for me!! :) My 15 month old babe wakes up at 4:30 EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I always put him back to bed...it was great to read this. I'm waiting for his little internal clock to finally figure it out.

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    1. Oh that is no fun! I wonder if something is waking him up? A train or neighbor's car? Hope his clock gets the hint soon! :)

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  6. I have had the same thoughts about my friends' posts and coments, and I totally agree with you! We have done s lot of the same things with our kids. People think my kids just naturally sleep in? No way! We worked hard for that and it's totally worth it! It's better for EVERYONE if we maintain a good sleep schedule (says the insomniac posting at 1:37am...a legitimate problem, and another reason it's so important that my kids sleep til a decent hour).

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    1. I seriously laughed at your comment! I need my kids to sleep til a normal hour so that it doesn't interfere with my own lousy sleeping habits too! haha

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  7. I am totally with you on this, Kylie! Now that my boys are older, we have an alarm clock in their room. At 7:15, church songs come on telling them they can come out. If they wake beforehand, they just play together in their room (or use the bathroom quietly) until the alarm goes off. Problem solved!

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    1. Bravo, Erica! Kids aren't mind readers, we have to lay out some expectations and help kids stick to them! I'm so happy you stopped by, I love your blog! :)

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  8. When I'm "sleep training" my babies, they are allowed to wake up between 6am and 8am. If they wake before 6am, I go in and cuddle them a minute and then put them back in bed. 99% of the time they fall back asleep. As they get older they develop their own perfect wake time and since I'm a SAHM, they have the benefit of sleeping til whenever they want. My pre-schooler went through a phase where he wanted to get up as soon as humanly possible (6 or earlier). His natural wake-up time is 7-7:30. We have a digital clock in his bathroom and he's allowed to get up when the clock says 7. That was mostly an issue early summer when the sun was rising much earlier. Now, both of my kids sleep til at least 7:30 and often 8. And they go to bed at 7:30 (16 month old) and 8 (3 1/2 yr old).

    My motto is: sleep begets sleep. Kids NEED sleep.

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    1. AMEN! I repeat that motto often! Thanks for sharing, Sara! :)

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  9. Great tips, but after all is said and done, some kids are just early risers no matter what you do. My four kids are all early risers (as in 5:30-6 a.m.). I have tried literally everything to get them to sleep in, including all of the above tips. I have read every book on sleep I can find and implemented the advice given, but nothing has worked. My kids continue to rise and shine early. After 6 years of killing myself, I finally accepted that is the way nature made them and adjusted my schedule to fit theirs rather then the other way around. I am so much less stressed now. I hope your tips help somebody, but just wanted to throw out there that there are those of us who don't "let" our kids get up early because of the way we parent; it's because sometimes you can't change a natural biological rhythm.

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    1. My sister-in-law would agree with you, she has 4 early rising boys as well. Life is all about controlling what you can, and accepting what you can't control, right? I think you were very wise to accept it and learn to accommodate their little clocks. I'm so glad you commented, I'm sure there are many other moms in the same shoes.

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    2. My oldest is the same, we have tried everything under the sun to get her to sleep later than 5:30ish, but nothing has worked. Even as a baby she never seemed to need as much sleep as my other kids have. We eventually had to split her up from sharing a room with her sister so that at least one of them could sleep until a more reasonable time! Right now we're working on helping her at least hang out quietly in her room until 7, but an hour and a half is a pretty long time for an almost-5-year-old to entertain herself, and it is definitely taking some work.

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    3. This is my son to a tee, too. We busted our humps for months trying to make sleeping in happen, to no avail. He is just an early riser. In the end, the one thing that did help was a tiny light on his baby monitor - once we started leaving it on all night even when we no longer needed it, he started sleeping in later. When we lent the monitor to my sister-in-law, he rose early again. Got the monitor back, and he is back to sleeping in to a reasonable time. The small amount of light must be enough to reassure him without disturbing him.

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  10. What a great article. Thank you so much for sharing this information!

    Warmly, Michelle
    Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust

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    1. Thanks Michelle :) I hope its helpful!

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  11. I never thought to do this, but luckily my two year old is an amazing sleeper. I hope it never ends.

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  12. Great advice! I've been meaning to buy the moon sun clock for a while. Will def get one soon! Our 3 yr old will sleep till 7 or 8 but she's getting in bed with us at 3 and 4am. Hubby does not like this routine any more.

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    1. I don't blame your hubby, haha! We've loved the "cow clock" for years, I can't imagine living without it at this point! Hope it helps you guys! Thanks for commenting :)

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  13. That's basically what we do, but there are occasional mornings where I just know my son isn't going back to sleep. Luckily he usually makes it to 6:30 or 7:00, and that's fine with me. I think one of the important things that you didn't mention though are naps. When they get enough sleep in the day, they typically sleep better at night. And when they are overtired, they wake a lot more and earlier.

    But I agree with some commenters- some kids just are just naturally early risers. I have friends who have two kids who get up between 5:30 and 6:00 and have since they were infants. But when she was sleep training her first she just kept moving her bedtime earlier and earlier (her wakeup time just wouldn't budge) and she basically slept from 5:30-5:30. So she was getting what she needed she just had her own little schedule.

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    1. You're totally right about the naps, good sleep brings more good sleep! It seems to contrary to common sense, but you're so right.

      Yeah, there is only so much you can control when it comes to sleep. :) There are things you can try, but I'm sure that just like adults, there are kids that are night owls and kids that are early birds! Thanks for your comments, Christina!

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  14. I love this post. I started doing this at about 9 months. He has always been a good sleeper and started sleeping through the night really early. At about 9 months because of holiday travel his sleep times got thrown way off. He was waking up 2 or 3 times a night! Seeing I already knew he could sleep through the night I decided that enough was enough. If he wakes up I see if he can self sooth. If not I go in have a snuggle and put him back to bed. Our wake up time is also about 7-7:30. If he is awake before then he hangs out in his crib and plays with his blankie and chatters. He is happy and so am I. I'll be getting one of those clocks as well. :) Sleep is so important for everyone.

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    1. I totally agree! I'm so glad you shared your perspective. Thank you!

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  15. I am one of the lucky ones who has a great sleeper, my 2 yr old has slept thru the night since day 1. We would have to set our alarm to wake her up & feed her for the first few months. We put her to bed between 10-1030 and she doesnt wake up till 10-11. We weren't so lucky with our 2nd child though, lol. She takes more frequent but shorter snoozes throughout the day, she has just turned 6 months old and we have at least gotten her to sleep from 3-10, which works for us since the hubby works in the restaurant industry he doesnt get home before midnight anyway. But Im glad you share the same 'i teach my kid, my kid doesnt run things' type of mentality!!

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    1. Its crazy how different each kid can be, even with the same parents! And yes, I do try to be understanding and compassionate, but at the end of the day, I'm the parent!

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  16. Having had 5 poor sleepers (all adults now) I was dreading the ideas you had would be the"let them cry till they fall asleep" method! How lovely to read a firm but loving mother's experience. I was able to accept the loss of sleep and actually still love rising at 5a.m. Babies cry because that is how they let mum know they need something and I cannot believe that a 6 week old baby is "manipulating" . Having said that they still need to learn day and night . The real general discipline is where so many of today's Mums seem to put in so little effort. It is cosistancy from day one. Well done.

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    1. Oh no! I am definitely not an advocate of letting your kids cry. There is a difference between a minute or two of fussing, and a sad abandonment cry. I remember one night, my toddler woke up and started crying in the night. I was so dead tired, I seriously considered just letting her cry herself back to sleep. But after a minute, I got up and asked "What's wrong baby girl?" And she said , "I scared momma." I knew right then and there that I can't in good conscience support crying-it-out. There is always a reason for them crying. Sometimes there isn't much we can do to fix the problem, but we should always be compassionate about it. As compassionate as we can muster. ;)

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  17. I am an early riser. I have been from the time I was small. My dad was an early riser and my mom is a night owl. I love the quiet time in the morning before the world is awake. I like rising as the sun is coming up. It's beautiful. But I understand that others like to stay up until the rest of the world has fallen asleep. When it is dark and peaceful. I can appreciate that too.

    I am a mother of six. Some, like me, are early risers. Some, like their father, are not. ;) I respect both. I think that if we try so hard to make children what we are, we dishonor them and their energy. When I was young, I could do both. Get up early and stay up late. So it didn't matter to me that my kids were one or the other. Now, that I am older, (and my kids are older too) I tell them they may stay up as late as they wish (respecting the night owls), but they must be in their bed by a certain time. They may read a book or do some other quiet activity. (P.S. This is foolproof. With a dim lamp, kids can't read all night every night. And if they do... it must have been a really good book worthy of staying up all night.) This way, they are respecting my sleep cycle. On the other hand, when I get up in the morning, I do quiet activities as well. I don't turn on the music and get cleaning my house, I work quietly, respecting those around me and their sleep cycle.

    I am not talking about letting your child get up a million times in the night when they are babies, or assuming because they got up at 4:30 in the morning that must be their wake-up time. I am talking about putting kids back to bed because 6 am is when they are waking up. If they are sleeping from even 10 at night until 6 in the morning... good for them! That is probably all they need (with their nap in the middle of the day). Obviously if they are cranky, you know otherwise.

    I say let's listen to the messages our kids are sending us and be respectful of them. Not letting them "run the house", but treating them like human beings with their own clock. That way we don't end up raising kids with confused clocks because mom wants to sleep in until 9 am. (Or mom wants to get up at 5:30 am)

    A couple other points:

    1. Remember, sleep cycles have tons to do with our metabolism. If you sleep in too too late (and you don't work a graveyard shift), you might want to ask yourself if your metabolism is healthy.

    2. Also, for those of you super late starters... I'm talking 10 and 11 am. Watch out for training your kids to sleep in late as toddlers and preschoolers. It's only going to come back to bite you when you have to retrain them to wake up for school... ;)

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  18. AnonymousJune 22, 2014

    This is what I have done from the beginning with my son and am doing with my 10 month old. It really does work! My son is 3 and no longer needs a sound machine but it was great when he was younger and settling into a routine. He knows no getting out of bed until I tell him!

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  19. I love these ideas, but ugh--my daughter used to sleep in until 10 or 11 every single morning until she was about 8 months old or so. Then all of a sudden (it seemed) she started to wake up around 5 or 6am! We have always put her to bed between 8pm and 9pm, usually closer to 9, so I am not sure what changed, but she seems to feel that she needs less sleep or she is hungry enough to wake up early. She comes in bed with us now at 5am after she wakes up and just tries to crawl away while I try to squeeze in another hour or two of unrestful sleep. Sigh. I miss waking up at 10am!
    But I am going to try and crack down on her tonight...I hate feeling so tired all day as a result of her schedule!

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  20. AnonymousJune 23, 2014

    I'd add that you're going to have to make some sacrifices for a consistant routine. I'd love to sleep in on the weekend, but weekday mornings we need to be up by 645 to get everyone to work/school. So that's when we get up every day. New parents: I used to dread the thought of waking up early with kids. Now I really enjoy early (6am) mornings. You become parents and you adapt to a certain extent.

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