Q&A: early rising

5:30 a.m. Why do I have to know it even exists?

And yet I do, for several weeks in a row now. The 4-year-old and 1-year-old seem to be taking turns waking up then and not going back to sleep.

I am not the only one with this problem. Elise wrote in to ask me what she could do about it with her 3-year-old. Rachel asked me what to do about it with a 10-month-old. Deb is wondering about it with her 15-month-old. Kelley wants to know how to stop her 2-year-old from waking up too early.

Now what’s fascinating me about all of this is that our early rising problems here Chez Moxie started (and by "started" I mean "cycled around again," because we’ve had early rising phases here before) about a month or so ago, the same time I started getting emails from readers about it. So I think it might have something to do with the time change or weather. Or else it could be some kind of organized plot by the under-5 set to drive grownups insane slowly.

I can tell you what worked for a few weeks with our 4-year-old, but seems to have lost its magic. We got him a digital alarm clock, and told him not to come out his room until the first number was a 7. It worked like a charm for a few weeks, but then he started coming in and stage whispering, "The first number is a 6, Mama, but I’m not going to wake you up until it’s a 7." Then 6 became 5. So the alarm clock has turned into a bust. (Although the alarm part does seem to go off at completely random times, which is freaky, but adds some interest to the day.)

The only thing that worked for us when our older son was a baby (around 10 months old) was waiting it out. He just started sleeping in later and later progressively, and by 15 months he was waking up at around 6:30 or 7. But I also knew there was no way CIO would work for him (he could have and would have cried for hours), plus I wasn’t willing to do it anyway, so I never seriously considered it (except in a "What if I just ran away and moved into a luxury hotel by myself?" kind of way).

When he was 2 and went through early rising phases we’d just let him climb in with us and he’d usually fall back asleep. Some mornings one of us would go with him into his room and fall back asleep in his bed with him. So if that isn’t working I don’t have anything else for that age.

I clearly have no answers to this early rising problem, so instead I’m going to ask a series of questions. You’ll answer to the best of your abilities, and maybe we can piece this thing together, erm, together.

1. Are those of you in the Southern Hemisphere also dealing with this early rising thing, or is it just happening to those of us transitioning from spring into summer?

2. Do you see any correlation between the time the child went to bed and the time s/he wakes up?

3. Do you see any correlation between activity level one day and early rising or lack of it the next morning?

4. Does the child’s sleeping situation (crib, bed, co-sleeping) seem to affect early rising? (Our data points are a co-sleeping 1-year-old and a bed-in-his-own-room-sleeping 4-year-old.)

5. Are there mornings in which your early riser falls back asleep? If so, have you noticed anything those mornings seem to have in common?

6. Is there anything else you can think of that I’m not asking about?

7. Do blackout shades work? And if they do, do they work well enough to make them worth the $$$?

8. If it was legal to give your child a sleep aid like Ambien or, say, opium, would you do so?

So give me your answers and we’ll see if we can figure anything out.