When we talk about an early wake, we typically mean before 6am. While our nap and feeding routines aim for a 7am (or close to) wake time, for some babies it can still be pretty normal to wake sometime between 6 to 7am. And as long as they’re getting plenty of quality sleep and are waking content, this is totally ok.
So for those who are struggling with wakes between 4-6am, here are some troubleshooting tips to work out why they might be waking early.
Is bedtime too early?
Most babies will only need 11.5-12.5 hours sleep overnight. So say you’re putting them down at 6pm for bed, and they’re then waking at 5:30am, they’ve probably had all the night sleep they need. So simply shifting bedtime a little later might shift their wake time as well.
Are they overtired at bedtime?
If your bub has been catnapping all day, and by the evening they are really dialled up, super fussy and almost impossible to settle to sleep, this would definitely indicate overtiredness, and may be the reason they’re waking earlier in the morning.
Are they having too much total day sleep?
If your bub has actually been napping really well during the day and have had too many long naps - this can remove too much sleep debt. You might find that they still settle ok for bedtime, but they wake a little earlier in the morning because naturally they just hadn’t built up enough sleep pressure to be able to sleep any longer.
Are they too cold?
5am is often the coldest part of the night. Babies also have a natural drop in body temp in the early morning hours making them feel even colder than they would have earlier in the evening. So when ever you’re dressing your baby for sleep, make sure to always check what it’s going to drop too and dress them appropriately for the temperature. Check out our Free Room Temperature & Sleepwear guide.
Are they hungry?
If you’ve recently dropped the last night feed, often a sign that they weren’t quite ready is that they’ve now started waking earlier in the morning. It can also be an issue when they’ve dropped to just one feed overnight and that feed has now naturally pushed out to around 5am. Unfortunately feeding at this time can encourage them to wake fully, as their body clock starts to kick into gear to help digest their milk. Plus after a solid night's sleep, they’ve already lost a lot of sleep pressure and will find it really hard to settle back to sleep.
Is there any sunlight in the room?
Sunlight has the biggest impact on our sleep and wake circadian rhythm. If there is any light in the room during the early hours (sunlight or artificial) it will indicate to a baby’s brain that it’s time to start the day. Their body starts to produce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in an effort to help them wake up.
Has it become a habit wake?
These are the top reasons why an early wake might have started to happen, but if you’ve been routinely starting their day at this time it might have developed into an early morning habit wake which can be much harder to shift.
If this is the case, grab our Early Rising Guide. It helps you assess your baby's individual sleep situation, and provides clear steps to shift their wake-up time to a better hour. Plus, it comes with a Money Back Guarantee!