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How can you say goodbye to an early wake up?

Updated: Nov 25


Defining early…

The word early is a tricky one because what is ‘early’ to one family may be another family’s dream. For the sake of this article, I am going to define anything before 6am as early.



Step 1: The first thing to analyse when aiming to eliminate an early wake up is the environment and any external factors:


Light: Is any light getting into the room? This includes daylight, light from sleep training clocks or other devices or light from a hallway light being left on. Any light at this hour is detrimental to sleep as Melatonin is declining and sleep is easily disrupted. As dark as possible is ideal for any babies younger than 2-2.5. Toddlers who express a fear of the dark could have a dim, red nightlight. Stick up black out blinds can be a great way to block out any external light and they can travel with you too – win win.


Noise: Does your street get noisy early in the morning or could any noises in your house be waking your little one? White noise is well worth a try if this could be a possibility – try to point your white noise machine towards the place most noise comes from. Keep it away from baby’s ears and ensure it is no louder than the volume of a shower when you are in it. I would personally advise this is kept on all night.


Day Sleep: Does your little one take a long early morning nap? I personally find that when they learn they get this ‘catch up’, they become more prone to waking early in the morning. It can be worth capping the morning nap to 30-40 minutes and aiming for a longer one around lunchtime for them to refresh for the afternoon.


Step 2:

Once you have checked your environment and day sleep and tested it for a good week to see if there is any change, it could be worth making some other changes to bedtime. It is not always the case that if you put baby to bed later, you will get a nice lie-in in the morning. This can be something to try, however, it isn’t a definite win.


If your little one is falling to sleep in under ten minutes at bedtime, they are likely overtired and would actually benefit from you bringing their bedtime 15 minutes earlier for a few days. Include a nice long bedtime routine and try it for a week to see how they get on.


If your little one is rolling around and taking a long time to settle (over 20 minutes), it may be worth pushing their bedtime 15 minutes later, keep a nice long wind down routine in to calm them and stimulate melatonin.

Another option if you’ve tried all of the above and been consistent with it for 1-2 weeks is to shift their WHOLE schedule if they follow a regular routine as per my examples below:


3 naps: If your little one takes 3 naps, aim to leave them in the cot until the desired wake-up time (6am ish) If they are happy, leaving them alone is totally fine here, if they need comfort you can be comforting them and reassuring but aim to keep them in their sleep environment with the white noise on, room dark and very hushed tones in your voice.

Nap 1: If they wake at 6am, aim for the first nap to be around 8.30am and keep it short by waking them around 9am. If they stay in bed until 7am, this first nap would be 9.30-10am. Before the nap do a little version of your bedtime routine to help them wind down.

Nap 2: If they sleep for those 30 minutes, the next nap should be 2.5 hours later so for a 9am wake 11.30 and for an 10am wake 12.30. This nap should aim to be longer and restorative if possible. You may need to resettle half way through, especially for those where this schedule is new.

Nap 3: The final nap should fall between 4.30-4.45 depending on your little one’s age – it should be a short, power nap. Check out my digital sleep guides for a breakdown of detailed routines by month of age this last nap should never last later than 5pm and should be out of the routine around 6-8 months.

Bedtime: Finally, bedtime would be 6.30-7pm depending on the sleep they have taken through the day, aim for an extra-long wind down before bed to calm them, especially if they are overtired from adapting to the new routine.


2 naps: If your little one takes two naps, aim to leave them in the cot until the desired wake-up time (6am ish) If they are happy, leaving them alone is totally fine here, if they need comfort you can be comforting them and reassuring but aim to keep them in their sleep environment with the white noise on, room dark and very hushed tones in your voice.

Nap 1: Keep the first nap short and around 2.5 hours after they wake in the morning and cap it at 30-40 minutes.

Nap 2: If they sleep for those 30 minutes, the next nap should be 2.5 hours later. This nap should aim to be longer and restorative if possible. You may need to resettle half way through, if this schedule is new.

Bedtime: Finally, bedtime would be between 6pm-7pm depending on the sleep they have taken through the day and their age, aim for an extra-long wind down before bed to calm them, especially if they are overtired from adapting to the new routine.


1 nap:

If your little one takes just one nap, aim to leave them in the cot until the desired wake-up time (6amish) If they are happy, leaving them alone is totally fine here, if they need comfort you can be comforting them and reassuring but aim to keep them in their sleep environment with the white noise on, room dark and very hushed tones in your voice.

Nap: Ideally keep their nap in the middle of the day to refresh them for the afternoon, aim for a couple of hours depending on their age.

Bedtime: Finally, bedtime would be 6.30-7pm depending on the sleep they have taken through the day, aim for an extra-long wind down before bed to calm them, especially if they are overtired from adapting to the new routine.

Always analyse when bedtime should be based on when they woke from their final nap of the day. For children who are younger than 2 years old, a wake window of around 4-5 hours is usually good. A child older than 2 years old will be better with 5-6 hours of awake time. Every child is different so look out for signs your little one is getting tired and go from there.


To finalise.

Early wake-ups are one of the most common issues I see from my clients and one of the most difficult thing to nail due to the number of things that could be contributing. Your child’s circadian rhythm is strong, therefore if you have been getting them up at 5am for a while, this will become a habit until you keep them in there until 6am. It will take patience, time and consistency to break that habit so please don’t give up if you don’t see results straight away.


Need more support?


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