Q&there-is-no-A: Stopping early waking

This post is for Fahmi and Kellanne and Nikki, and for everyone who's written to me over the years or not even bothered to write,and for the thousands of other parents who have gone through this and just suffered in silence or just cried.

Some kids go through a phase (during toddlerhood or late toddlerhood) in which they wake up really early, like between 4 am and 6 am. And they're up for the day. And there isn't anything you can do to get them back down to sleep.

I do not have a solution. I have a bunch of suggestions for things that you can try, and one or more of these things have worked for some people. But there are many, many, many other parents who have tried all of the things on the list I'm about to put up and others I haven't even thought about, to no avail.

Here's the list of things to try:

  • Blackout shades (Either ones you buy or ones you make with cardboard or aluminum foil)
  • Changing the child's diet to exclude gluten, dairy, soy, and/or other common allergens
  • White noise machines
  • Making the room warmer
  • Making the room colder
  • Putting more or fewer clothes on your child
  • Earlier bedtime
  • Later bedtime
  • Cutting down (or out) naps
  • Increasing naps
  • Listening carefully to figure out if there are any ambient noises (like a neighbor starting a car) that might be waking the child up
  • Moving a child out of a sibling's bedroom
  • Moving a child into a sibling's bedroom
  • Praying to a higher power
  • Giving up belief in a higher power
  • Making charts about appropriate wakeup times (although this often works for kids closer to the age of three, so don't disregard it entirely)
  • Buying fancy clocks

Again, some of these things have worked for people, so try them. But know that many parents, good parents, smart parents, parents who have solved all kinds of weird parenting issues, have never been able to get past this one.

This is my white whale. Every other question I've gotten has either been solvable (Drop in milk supply during your period? Check. Kid starts screaming exactly an hour after he goes to sleep for the night? Check.) or bearable (The 4-month sleep regression will be over in a few weeks. Check. Your hair's falling out in clumps at a month post-partum? Check.) or so unusual that it only affects a few people (In-laws selling pot during Christmas dinner. Check. Your neighbors tell you that they hear you having sex through your baby monitor and their cordless phone? Check.). But this early waking thing affects SO MANY OF US and yet we haven't been able to figure out how to stop it.

The only good news about it is that it eventually goes away. Unfortunately, it takes months. But it does go away.

I promise you that there will come a Saturday morning in which your child will wake you up at 7:30 am and you will be annoyed because 7:30 is too early for a Saturday morning. And if it doesn't happen, you can borrow one of my children and he will wake you up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. Guaranteed.

Thoughts? Who out there could never solve the early waking thing? Did you go the despair route, the rage route, or the demoralized acceptance route?

85 thoughts on “Q&there-is-no-A: Stopping early waking”

  1. Ohhhh my. My 11 month old has ALWAYS been an early waker. On an amazingly good day, he sleeps till 6am. On a bad day? 4am. And yes, we are SO sick of hearing “just put him to be earlier! Weissbluth says…” Yes, thanks, we’ve tried that!!!Ok, /end bitter rant. I’m a little sleep-deprived. =) I guess I need to just be grateful that he has been sleeping through the night for a couple of months now?
    I will be checking back on this post in case anybody else has tips we haven’t tried! Thanks for this one.

  2. Becca, at that age playing around with bedtime and nap timing *might* do something, but his sweet spot might be way later, so keep your mind open and trust your instincts. But know that you might not actually be able to solve this one.Also, Weissbluth can kiss my ass unless he’s going to take the 4 am wake-up shift for you.

  3. Right in the thick of this with my just turned 2-year-old. Combined with recent ear infection, and all four 2-year molars making their presence felt (tho not yet visible) and it has nooooot been a happy time the last few weeks. Oy.

  4. I think I am lucky. My kids are up for 12 hours and sleep 12 hours. It doesn’t matter when they get to bed, they are out for about 12 hours. They are super super active and don’t sit still very much during the day (what 1 year old and 4 year old really do?)I get all kinds of grief IRL here because my kids sleep later than “normal” kids. But I kinda think it’s good for them to sleep, when they are tired. I cannot in good conscience put my kids to bed when there is light outside. I know it works for other families. I’ve gotta do what’s right for my kids, is all I say. But oh my goodness it’s like I gave my kids knives or something like that when I tell people that they sleep til 10am.
    We usually go to bed at 10pm and wake up by about 10am. (My oldest was in afternoon preschool, so we didn’t have a school issue this year)

  5. Well, G is just over 2.5 years old, and his idea of sleeping in is 6am. He generally wakes at about 5:40 now. This is an improvement over the long stretch of 4:45am wakings (12-18mos?). Preceded earlier by not sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch (0-10mos).We tried a number of these strategies, to no avail. The fancy clock (worked briefly, but only to get him to 5:30). Space heater, white noise at naptime ensure better sleep but don’t change wake-up time. Later bedtime just resulted in less sleep.
    The pre-5am stretch was soul-killingly early. We can generally cope with anything past about 5:20, since my hubby and I start the morning about 5:45 – he comes by his early bird gene fairly. If he sleeps until 6 on the weekend, we feel like we slept ’til 8am.

  6. Shalini, I also have a kid with a late bedtime and late morning wakeup. Everyone thinks that we’re horrible people. But I see her more (I work outside the home) and she gets the same amount of sleep as other kids, so what’s the problem? Sometimes it bothers me that I have no time to myself in the evenings, but it’s not harmful to her at all.

  7. Just going to add my voice to the chorus of “me too”! My turning-2-year-old-on-Wednesday has been waking up between 5:30 and 6 for about 2 months now. I am NOT NOT NOT an early bird, so yes, soul-crushing is a good adjective. We tried blackout shades, A/C and fan for white noise and temperature control, put him to sleep a little later–nothing has worked. We can’t mess with his nap too much because they have 2 hr naps in daycare that I can’t control.I think I’m just going to have to dream about better days until they arrive. The light/timer idea sounds great, but he’s too young to get it.

  8. you’ve forgotten one thing Moxie: either take the kid to bed with you or go into their room for cuddle time, until you can make it out of bed yourself without stumbling. Used to work better for us than it does now with WIGGLY 2.5 year old, but 5-6 or 6-7 or whatever was great cuddle time or family time when it wasn’t expected that he go to sleep, (he could if he wanted), but a family time in bed. I sometimes listen to NPR during these times, sometimes talk about our day, sometimes just cuddle. ;)Also, sometimes, having toys that they can play with off the bed on the floor if your room is reasonably child proof and you shut the door. (non noise making) You can’t go to sleep yourself, but at least you can get some “rest”.
    This issue happens again when traveling with time zones.

  9. We’ve had this off and on since my daughter was 6 mos till now- almost 3 yo- though it’s improving now. My best suggestion is a coping one- 30-60 min of tv while I doze on the couch. I’m a lifh sleeper so I know I’ll hear her if she foes anywhere and it makes me able to cope.

  10. I rarely comment, but I suffered through this with my oldest son and it was very bad for my personality. It started with the god-awful nine month sleep regression and ended a year later. It was a very long year. We tried EVERYTHING, and wouldn’t you know one of those fancy clocks that finally made the difference at 21 months (http://www.amazon.com/American-Innovative-Teach-Talking-Nightlight/dp/B0019IHE8I). We still use it, and it still works. I think my son was nervous that it was morning and he was missing something great, so he woke himself up at unacceptable hours and cried to make sure we weren’t partying without him (there was very little partying that year). Knowing that the clock would turn green when it was morning visibly calmed him down. Sometimes he wakes up before the clock, but he plays quietly in his bed and only calls for us when the clock changes. All bow down to the clock.

  11. I think some children are just “morning people.” When I’m getting enough sleep (and I am now, and have been for more than a year now!), I am awake by 5:30 much of the time, and my son (4!! in 2 weeks!!) is the same way. We were up at 5:15 this morning and it’s rare he sleeps past 7am. He’s pretty much always been this way, never up much before 5, though there was a bad phase ca. 15 months when he wanted to be up at 4am and once we actually set up a baby einstein dvd on the laptop across the room from his crib and let him watch it from 4-5am because we could not wake up enough to deal.

  12. For us, the black-out curtains and keeping the room warm worked during the early yearsThe clock “No calling mommy until the clock matches the picture” worked later on.
    Now that my son is 8, I am trying to get him to not wake me up to ask me if he can do X (where X = tv, or DS, or playing with Legos). The answer is always, “Get dressed first.” So why is he asking?

  13. Wow, Shalini and Dr. Confused, I am envious of your sleep situations! It’s so frustrating to hear that people give you grief for what clearly works well for you. At around 10 months, my daughter woke up between 4-5am several mornings a week for many, many weeks in a row. We tried everything we could think of. She was just up. So happy and cheerful, but unfortunately we were not. At almost 16 months, she wakes between 6-7:30. If we’re not ready to get up, we’ll just bring her to bed with us. She’ll usually fall asleep or at least rest quietly. If the early waking starts up again, I’m intrigued by the fancy clock suggestion!

  14. We’ve been suffering through this the last few months (DS will be 3 in September). We’ve finally gotten to a good place with the Goodnite Lite (www.goodnitelite.com). I don’t think it’s necessarily making him sleep longer, but he knows to stay in his room and stay quiet until the sun comes on. And there have been a few miraculous 7:30 wake ups. Then again, he was up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning.Also, for us it’s partly potty training. He’s basically there but if he wakes any time after 4:30 (when the birds start chirping) to go to the bathroom, that’s it – we are up for the day. So we’ve gone back to putting him on the potty before we go to bed and that seems to have stopped the early morning bathroom trip.
    This definitely coincided with spring for us. Any other thoughts about whether this is seasonal and we can expect things to improve in the fall?

  15. I have to count myself in the extremely fortunate camp when it comes to sleeping, but we did have a brief bout of early waking a couple of months ago, shortly after Squidlet turned two and we converted the crib to a toddler bed.Normally he wakes up between 7:15 and 8. All of a sudden he started waking up at 5:30 or 6, precisely at the time that he could all of a sudden get out of bed. So we started have a toddler launch himself into our bed like a missile at 5:45 am. Argh.
    Our solution: went over his bedroom another time with superfine childproofing. Then we reversed the doorknob on the door to his room- we can push the button on the outside and lock him in. For about three days he would stand and the door and YELL. Then he got used to it, and now he wakes up and entertains himself in his room. Sometimes I hear him playing with toys, sometimes I walk in at 7:30 and find him sitting on the floor quietly “reading books” to his favorite stuffed monkey. Occasionally he’ll wake up with a poopy diaper and on those days yes I actually have to get up. Obviously this won’t work once he’s reading for potty training, but for the time being it’s working.

  16. I went the acceptance route.If I’m up for the day and a kid wakes up, that kid is up for the day too. Yes, we went through a 4:30am wake-up time with my son but hey, waking up at 4:30 means he’s ready for nap #1 at 9:30! I try to look on the bright side…
    What helped us survive the super-early wakings is for us to get to bed early. Yes, I like to have time to myself and/or with my husband in the evenings. However, if I’m fairly sure a kid will wake up at 4:30am, I’m working hard to get into bed before 9pm!

  17. I have to admit, my first thought on reading this was- what, 6 a.m. is early?Cuz see, in our house, if we all sleep until 6:30, I count that as sleeping in.
    However, for those of you in early waking hell, my oldest daughter slowly moved her wake up time from 4:30 (yes, that was when she woke up for the day as a baby) to the present 6-6:30 (she is a little over 3- but I think we hit 6 a.m. as the wake up time sometime around 2 years old).
    And there were times when she would wake up at 0’dark-thirty and we could get her to sleep another hour or so if we held her. At this point she was old enough that I could snooze while holding her and not freak out and worry about smothering her. And later, we went through a phase where we could get an extra hour of sleep by letting her climb into bed with us. Now, once she’s up, she’s up and nothing is going to get her back in bed.
    The second daughter (almost 9 months old) is a much better sleeper in many ways, but she woke up for the day today at 5:40.
    It is a cruel trick of nature that I have two early birds for children. Left to my own devices, I’d sleep in every day. Hubby, on the other hand, bounds out of bed happy and perky.

  18. I have tried everything: lights on a timer, clocks, charts, yelling (yeah, yelling), snuggling in bed together, naps/no naps, changed bedtimes, you name it. Everything. For four years. You’d think I’d have reached acceptance by now, and I have, but it’s tainted with annoyance and anger. The bottom line is this: no matter what time he goes to bed, my son will get up at 5:45 and that’s Just the Way It Is. Except when it’s earlier! And once, once!, he slept until 7. Oh, happy day.I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that some kids simply do not need very much sleep. My 4yo is fine with 10 hours. Totally, totally fine. Even 9 hours is enough for him, not matter what I want to believe and what the books say and all that. And oh, how I wish it weren’t so but it is.
    And I hate it. It would be better if I could get myself to go to bed earlier so that I were subsequently more rested, but that doesn’t seem to happen. I know there will come a day when I have to pry him out of bed on the weekends and I’ll wistfully remember how cheerful and ready to greet the day he was at this age, but right now, it is a huge challenge for me to handle this with grace.

  19. Well, see, once they’re 3 or 3.5, they can get up, get cereal, and play until you’re done sleeping late. Where sleeping late = 7:30 am.But the really cruel thing about the early waking is that stores don’t open until 10 am. Target by us doesn’t open until 8 am. Even the grocery store doesn’t open until 6 am. So, here we are, all dressed and ready to go out and spur on the economy and buy something, and the store’s not open yet. It makes being awake before dawn that much more isolating.

  20. When my younger one was in the stage where he did this, I just started going to bed at 9 p.m. I worked at home part of the time and had flexible hours, so I started putting in 2 hours in the morning before anyone else was up. Get up at 5, feed him, give him toys at my feet, work ’til 7. I did that 4 mornings a week and got to have an entire extra day off from work (8 hours before-hours working == on 8-hour workday).I haaaate getting up early, but since I had to, I made the most of it. I don’t know what the suggestion here is — look on the bright side?

  21. Does it really go away?? Because my son has ALWAYS been an early waker – sometimes he would sleep in until 6 if he was going through a huge growth spurt but usually it is always 4:45 on the freakin’ dot. Including this morning. He’s almost 4. Now he will stay in his room until 5:30 on weekdays and until 6 on weekends (as long as I leave him some dry cereal or something else to snack on, but I still hear him with my super Mommy ears) but when I hear stories of kids waking up “too early, like 7 am” I want to weep.

  22. I’m a 3+ year veteran of the 5am wakings and I still haven’t made my peace with it. My three year old son just doesn’t need a lot of sleep, and while my one year old daughter does, she is still up around 5ish every day (first nap often starts at 7am!).It has been my biggest parenting challenge; we have tried pretty much everything mentioned and the crushing exhaustion still regularly sucks the joy out of life for me.
    However, I do think we are past the worst: my son now understands his Goodnite Lite (set for 6:20am) and I’m counting the months till my daughter does too! In the meantime, I aim to get to bed by 10, and grouse and bitch a lot.

  23. Demoralized acceptance here. Typical waking time of my 2 year old is during the 5am hour, and has been for quite some time. A day when he sleeps until 6am is a day for celebration – unless it occurs on one of my office days, when I wake up at 5am anyway.

  24. Another part of looking on the bright side:when one kid gets up super-early (and won’t go back to sleep), I get one-on-one time with him/her! Having two kids, in my opinion & experience, means a constant juggling act; time with one and only one kid is precious, even if it is crazy early in the morning.
    (About a month ago my 3.5-year-old was up super early so we made birthday cards. At 05:00 and in our PJs. Now we’re all set for the summer birthdays…)

  25. I think Julie hit the nail on the head with “when I hear stories of kids waking up too early, like 7am I want to weep. Me, too!My almost 3 yr old has always been up early. Just recently he started making it til 6am and then coming to our bed to hang out for maybe 30 minutes. The only constellation prize is #2 sleeps 12 hours regardless of when she goes down unless #1 wants someone to play with early in the morning.

  26. Last summer my 18 month old woke up at 5:30 am no matter what I did. Trying to make it later only seemed to make it earlier. I decided to embrace 5:30 and give up all the thousands of tricks I was trying (all of which Moxie listed). I’m a teacher so I had the summer off to “enjoy” my early wakings. As soon as school started again (she was around 20 months) she suddenly started going back to sleep when I dragged her into bed with me at 5:30. She still gets in bed with us around 5:30 or 6 each morning, but at least she goes back to sleep. Much more pleasant.

  27. We didn’t ever deal with this long term but I had several friends who did during the toddler years. One family coped by dropping their child off at daycare shortly after they opened at 6 a.m. a couple of days a week so they could get a little more sleep!

  28. @snickolett. Me too with the low on the sleep-need scale child and the yelling. For us it’s on the other end of the day though. My 6 yo has just never ever ever been an early-to-bed person. Even as a baby her schedule was an hour or two later than “normal”. As a 3 year old I would yell at her to make her go to sleep (yeah, it didn’t work and I felt like an out of control idiot) and now thanks to audiobooks I can generally leave her to her own devices to fall asleep when she’s ready at night. But that is almost never before 9pm and she almost never wakes up before 8, and as much as I try to tweak the schedule, it’s clear that her natural rhythms are later than the norm in American culture.

  29. Julie, at a certain point it doesn’t matter if they wake up early because you’re out of the loop. My 8-year-old will wake up at 5:30 to play video games. But he just gets up and goes into the living room and turns on the Wii or computer veeeery quietly and plays.

  30. I was lucky too with my kids who would wake up any time from 5.30 – 6.30 and then would go back to sleep for another hour, hour and a half if I nursed them ( back when I was nursing) or tuck them in . Of course this was back when they were babies or toddlers and ended when the youngest was 2.5 ( the oldest was 2). Now the worse case scenario is them up around 7, but that is only if hubby or I are and they hear us.Of course the 3.5 year old is up frequently during the night and likes to snooze in the morning.

  31. My three year old has been doing this for months and months. Last summer he slept almost every day until 7:30. Some days even until 8:00! Then, poof! For the last 5-6 months, he’s been up with the sun every day… sometimes 5:30, almost always by 6.Later bedtime doesn’t work for us. Earlier bedtime helps a little– if I put him down at 7:30 or 7:45 instead of 8:00, he’ll sleep until 6:30 instead of 6:00. If I put him down after 8:00, it takes him a really long time to fall asleep and he keeps getting up.
    We just got one of those timer night lights– it turns into a moon at bedtime (which you set), stays a moon all night and then turns into a sun at wake up time (which you also set). So far it seems to be working a bit (knock on wood). Sometimes he’ll still come in our room at 6:00, but I tell him to go back until the light looks like a sun (at 7:00) and, miraculously, he does (I was very pleasantly surprised that he could keep himself busy for an hour). He lays in bed and looks at his books. Hallelujah! We’ve only had it a week. I hope it keeps working.
    Early waking just sucks. Really, really bad.

  32. Live through this with one kid. When another kid is similarly inclined, the firstborn will feel it’s his job to keep him entertained, and you will be able to to sleep a little longer.Buy firstborn a DS, a pony, and a case of mangoes as a thank-you.

  33. Our solution to 5 a.m. has been my husband’s iPhone, volume and brightness adjusted, with baby in bed with us to play with his apps as he sees fit. Better than nothing.

  34. @SarcasticCarrie – my husband and I often remark that stores don’t know what they are missing, opening “late” and closing “early”. Particularly non-essential item shopping (clothing stores, shoe stores) and services (the spa!) If I could shop for shoes after 9 pm, oh the money I could spend! (Online shopping isn’t a great option for us, in Canada.)Hmm, on second thought perhaps it’s not such a bad thing the stores are closed…
    It does get embarrassing when they unlock the grocery store doors at 8 am and the clerks are expecting to see us and greet us personally!
    All that is to say, we have an off-and-on early riser and I nothing I’ve tried has ever really seemed to fix the problem. It seems to be tied to developmental spurts and we have learned that the only thing we can do is ride it out. He tends to be at his cutest at 5 am, which is probably some sort of Darwinian survival instinct.

  35. Sheesh, didn’t mean to just post under my real name, not that it matters. Hello, my name is Shannon and I haven’t slept for approximately 2.5 years. Shoot me now.

  36. Demoralized acceptance here. I have 2 early wakers. I think they are hard-wired for it….Would write more but am too tired!

  37. The clock thing totally worked for us, although it is set to turn green at 6:30. If my son (now 5) comes in before that, I tell him to go back to bed until his clock turns green. This has worked well since he he was 3 and he would come find me at all hours of the night–suspecting that maybe it was morning and he was missing something I guess. I was often up with his baby sister or had just gotten back to sleep… Best $40 I ever spent!

  38. @shinali @snickollet @maria – I have one too. Bed at 9:30 if she’s really really tired, and up at 8 on schooldays, 9 on weekends. Luckily we’re wired fairly similarly – I think an early riser like people are discussing here might have been the death of us.I do get a certain amount of raised eyebrows about the bedtime, and assertions that if I just firmly put her to bed at 8 she’ll go to sleep…and all I have to say about it is, “you try it”. There is more than one way to be normal. 🙂

  39. This has been SO HARD for me and my husband. We are both night people and even if we go to bed insanely early, we’re still groggy and irritable before about 8:30-9. We’ve tried everything Moxie listed with the kidlet (except the things that he can’t understand yet, like the clock), but he still has never in his life woken up later than 6am.Our solution isn’t really a solution, it’s more of a coping mechanism (and of course only works for us lucky people with live-in partners), but my husband and I ended up setting weekend schedules for who would wake up with the kidlet and who got to sleep in. We normally do most kid-related stuff together, but getting up this early every single day was killing both of us.
    It has made so much of a difference knowing that ONE day a week the morning is just not my problem. Kidlet wakes up, hubby vanishes, I turn over and go back to sleep until I’ve slept myself silly. Then the next day is his turn to sleep in and my turn to whisk kidlet away as soon as he so much as peeps. We both get to recharge our batteries that way.

  40. Do you have links to the answers to those other Q’s? Cause I’d like some answers! (Fortunately not for the pot during dinner scenario, though)

  41. Yep. Suffering in silence over here. No solutions yet. We have tried black out blinds, white noise, earlier and later bedtimes, ect. Nothing.Except every once in a while (like once a month) our daughter (15 months old) sleeps in until 8:15am. It is miracle! Except she so rarely does it that I fear her to be in peril and then I can’t sleep anyway. Damn the worrying of mother-hood.

  42. I would take this as a harbinger for whether you basically have an “owl” or a “lark”. See, I have one of each. My daughter never did this. When her sleep is disturbed it’s always a problem falling asleep. My son did it bad for the whole year he was one…and still occasionally.I was lucky in that I have a larky husband …we basically took turns getting up with the little guy, and it could be as early as 4:30. My advice, if you’re in the thick of it, is to TRY to make it as fun for yourself as possible. I put tons of sugar in my coffee. Even if the stores are closed, there’s probably a donut shop that’s open early. We would sometimes just get on the bus, ride a little bit, and ride back. Ack. It really stinks as you’re going through it, but I can say that I have some fond memories of those early mornings alone….ah, what am I saying? I don’t want to go back!!!
    (The other day, my son WAS up at 5:00. I saw a woman jogging past our house with a stroller, uphill. I just stood there and saluted.)

  43. I have never posted but have followed your blog for several months. This issue is probably one of the defining themes of our family’s early parenting struggles! I love that you offer up the “obvious” solutions as possible but not definitive answers. It is hard to describe an intractable problem to someone and have them say, “have you tried pulling the shades down?”Our now six year old son was an early waker from the time he started sleeping through the night (sometime before a year?) – between 4:15-4:30 am typically. He remained a before 5 waker until 4, slept in til 5 at 5, and at 6 is now between 5:30-6. It seemed totally survivalbe to us until we had the second kid. Then we went in search of answers! There weren’t many. It seems that those adults that you know who don’t require a lot of sleep or who LOVE to wake up early were once children. We scored one. A psychologist that we met with suggested that serotonin regulation is very likely at play in these cases. So, you have the option to medicate (which we didn’t do, other than a brief experiment with melatonin) or deliberately manage inappropriate behaviors which arise from being tired because the kid’s schedule is so different from everyone elses (preschool started at 9:15 – the kid had already been up 1/2 a day!).
    On the subject of clocks – we found that by taping over the two last numbers, he was able to read and understand the first number of the digital clock by early 3 (no coming out of your room until THE 5).
    Others are right, now that the first kid is older, it is less relevant when he wakes up, but it was so hard to see down that bleary road when we were that sleep deprived.
    It was fascinating to read all of these posts. I felt utterly alone on this for several years.
    I enjoy reading here – thanks!

  44. I was able to use a time change to my advantage. We simply didn’t change his time when we changed the clocks. Suddenly 5:30 was 6:30 and we could manage it. By the time the clocks changed again he was more flexible and we made the change 15 minutes at a time for a week. Fortunately we never went through another phase of early wake ups.

  45. We’ve been having all kinds of sleep issues with my 26 month old. Late bedtimes (frequently after 10pm) and crazy early wakings in the 3 to 5 am range for months. This stopped a couple of weeks ago and now he seems to wake up about 10 – 10.5 hours after he falls asleep.One good thing is that if he wakes up before 6am, he usually goes back down 2 hours later. So if I can hold off on the coffee, I get to go back to bed too. And he’ll still take an afternoon nap. I was concerned until I added up all the sleep he was getting and it usually added up to 11 – 12 hours per 24 hour period.
    One thing that did help briefly was changing his diaper before I went to bed whether he needed it or not. Not sure if that has been suggested. But it seemed that if he was prone to wake up, a wet diaper would seal the deal.
    but I do need to say the late bedtime is hard for me. DH and I need some “us” time, and I’m not much good after 10pm.

  46. I think for my oldest I went with demoralized acceptance. But her early was probably 5:30 or 6, which is evil but not crazy. I couldn’t handle the awake at both ends – up til 9 and and then up again at 5:30 and no naps. AAAGH! Sending her to school at 7:45am 5 mornings a week at age 3 did help. For one thing, she was tired, which she didn’t recognize or feel before. She started going to bed at 7. So i at least got evenings back.I think growing up helps. At 8 she wakes up and can entertain herself. My 6 year is even better at it, he turns on TV or the Wii and claims a little me time.
    It took 3 years of going to a later starting school (8:55) with a much shorter commute for her to be able to sleep later (like 7:15 :).

  47. I just want to say that the GOOD NITE LITE saved my life:http://www.goodnitelite.com
    Definitely some of the best money I ever spent. I started this with my daughter when she was about 18 months old. The only thing is that you have to work them up slowly to the time you want them to get up. If they’re waking at 5am, set it for 5:15. Then when they get used to 5:15, do 5:30, etc. until you reach desired target. LoVE IT and over a year later we still use it every night and my daughter gives “Mr. Moon” kisses as she climbs into bed and exclaims “Sun on, Mommy!” when “Mr. Sun” comes on in the morning. Because, really, how else does a little kid know what “time” it is and what is appropriate? They only know they woke up so why not call for Mommy.

  48. My 3 year old is up between 6am -6:30am daily at least 1 morning he gets up before 6am and 1 more after 6:30. We have a routine that do nightly and he goes to bed no later than 8pm (most nights) I’ve cut out some naps so he takes a nap every other day, our diet consist of mostly vegetarian, low salt, low sugar and minimal processed foods. I feel we are doing most of the right things but in the end you have to look at your child and ask yourself…does he require more sleep or is this just him? My husband requires more sleep than me, I get up in the morning and I am ready to start my day as my youngest is. My oldest is more like my husband, he gets up a little later and can lay in bed and watch cartoons for an hour before heading downstairs. Everyone is made up differently and sometimes we just need to accept that…I’d just like to get a little more sleep 🙂

  49. I’m with the parents with the late sleepers and agree I think I’ll be insane if the baby that’s due in October isn’t hard-wired the same way. It’s simply not possible to get my 3 year old son to sleep before 10pm, it usually ends up being even later (sometimes even midnight!) before he finally stops fighting his sleep.. (and he hasn’t taken regular naps since he was 18months old or so!) so the little amount of “me time” I have is into the early morning hours (hence the reason I’m posting this after 1am) but he and I can both sleep until at least 10am, sometimes 11am and maybe even noon! before he wakes me up.. and for now it works for us, so my ex-MIL can suck it! (lol)However, this fall preschool will start at 9:30am, so we might have a problem then.. oh man, preschool in September, newborn baby sister in October, and I’m newly single? Please tell me I’m going to survive! :/

  50. Thank you Dr. Confused for letting me know I’m not alone!!Well I was told by some well meaning mothers that I was curbing my child’s mechanism for “growth” by making them stay up and sleep in so late.
    Yeah for reals…
    My husband worked a shift job where he didn’t get home til 8pm, so if I had had my kids in bed when this mom thought I should, Hubs wouldn’t get to see the kids over 4 days a week. So I just adjusted our at home schedule to work so he could see them too. It took about a week, and we worked it out where the kids go to bed about 10pm and then usually (unless teething or sick) wake up at about 10am.
    My almost 5 year old doesn’t nap, but almost 1 year old DOES nap. So it all happens, and I know FOR SURE (scientifically proven) that the kids are growing.
    I don’t think it messes up a kids biological clock if they don’t get up with the sun, or get up before the sun shows, or get up and are nocturnal. Whatever works best for the family will be best for the kids, and we’ll all grow just fine.
    My mama mantra is “Just go with your instincts.”
    Good luck to everyone, I know sleep issues are the worst!
    We’re about to move from Central Australia back to the United States (about 15.5 hours time difference), so our sleep patterns/schedules are about to take a MAJOR crapping. I hope that the kids work the jet lag quickly. I can cope as long as I have some internet access! 🙂

  51. I’d like to add that these early wakings subsided after I weaned my kids (no1 at 17 months, no2 at 2.5 years). I don’t know if there is anything in that, probably just coincidental, seeing that it was around the time of major developmental spurts and their sleep may have ‘matured’ anyway.

  52. A sleep-in day for us is 6:30, and my ‘good sleeper’ does one of these maybe once a month. Typical these days (twin 3 yr olds) is wake up between 5:30-6:00. It’s been like this for a while, and was only ever earlier (hand raised for 4:30 wake up as babies). I actually wouldn’t really mind this, since I’m a morning person. I wouldn’t mind except my poor sleeper is many nights still waking me up at night. So I guess my feeling is early morning wake ups are fine if the kids are sleeping through the night. That said, we’ve recently been experimenting with a digital clock in their room and telling them they can only come into our bed when the first number is a ‘six’. Good sleeper is very good about this, telling us ‘I checked, and it was a six’. Poor sleeper is still often in bed with us at 5:20. Because at that point I just can’t be bothered taking him back to his room and dealing with the fussing and he’s certainly not going back to sleep.

  53. I have a 9.5 hour a night on average sleeper. Went through a brief up at 4:30 for no reason phase around 18 months. Went through a much longer up at 5:30 phase -so long I just thought that was how it was going to be forever.At 33 months he usually is asleep by 9:00 and awake by 6:30 give or take a half hour on either end. If I have him in bed at 7 to read books, we just end up awake in his room/bed for two hours. I prefer just delaying bedtime til it fits his rhythm rather then torturing both of us pretending a traditional bedtime will work if only “I just make him” because a two hour fight at bedtime helps who exactly?
    He and I are both morning people. Me not so much at 5:30 but 6:30 is really a manageable time and even on the weekends it’s tolerable if not ideal. The thing I miss most is having even 15 minutes to myself before he wakes up but I just can’t make myself get up any earlier these days.
    I’m with @sarcasticarrie with the why haven’t stores picked up on this untapped market of parents with early risers? We have been at Target when the doors open on more than one occasion.

  54. oh yes, suffering through this here too. The 6 month old wakes up around 5am and just as he’s going back to bed for his first nap of the day (usually 6:30-7:00), his 3 year old sister is waking up. I really think I could handle 5am a little better, if I hadn’t already been up for a 1am breastfeeding session. ugh. No solutions. We’re just coping with the symptoms of sleep deprivation by drinking copious amounts of coffee (and sometimes by letting the 3 year old play with the iphone in bed to let us rest a bit longer).

  55. How could I possibly have missed the “neighbors hearing you having sex on their phone via the baby monitor” conversation?????

  56. Wait..what’s the answer to the “wakes up exactly an hour after falling asleep”?My 3yo will play in his room quietly for about 15 minutes, but only after he’s come in to loudly announce that “he’s awake and going to do puzzles in his room!”
    What I wouldn’t give for a kid that sleeps in (although the 5 month old is much much worse right now).

  57. My toddler has an early bedtime (6:30, sometimes even 6:15) so he’s always been an early riser – 5:30ish. During his dreaded and appropriately horrible 18 month sleep regression he started waking up at 4:30, sometimes 4 and on a few horrifying occasions 3:50 AM. We tried almost everything on Moxy’s list, but since it was a sleep regression nothing worked except dealing with it. Leaving him in the crib never resulted in him going back to sleep – until the regression was over. We knew the regression was over when he would go back to sleep until 5:30 (it took two solid months). The rest of the time the early wake up was ok, because it enabled us to have a nice calm unhurried morning and to get him to childcare and me to work by 8 AM without screaming or tantrums that resulted from trying to hurry a toddler who insists on doing everything on his own. Once said toddler hit 24 months and started a new daycare with a later naptime, we started putting him to bed a little later (7 PM) and now he sleeps until 6, which seems like sleeping in to all of us. There are babies that wake up at 7 AM and that seems EARLY? Impossible to believe! We are big believers in early bedtimes and the philosophy that sleep begets sleep. I know kids are probably hardwired different ways and you might not be able to change them, but I have to say every baby/toddler I know with an early bedtime sleeps and naps really well.

  58. Moxie, you crack me up! Yes, I remember a phase when my youngest was about 12-14 months old when, no matter when he went to bed at night, he was up at 4:00 AM for the day, every day. It sucked so bad! The only saving grace was that putting him to bed at 6:00 PM vs. 9:00 PM didn’t make any difference, so we’d put him to be wicked early and at least have some down time in the evening.My approach for dealing with this was to chose Moxie-Logic and assume this was a developmental milestone of some sort. The only other things that worked for us was taking turns getting up at 4:00 and waiting it out (it lasted about 3 months). Slowly, he started to sleep later and now, at 20 months, he sleeps from 8 PM to 6 AM, regardless of naps.
    Ah, sleep. A parents true obsession.

  59. I am immediately going out and buying one of these clocks and/or night lights and installing it in my 3 year old’s room. How did she get to be 3 and I’ve yet to have heard of these / thought of this myself?Today was 6:45 a.m. which I know is not that bad compared to some. Normally she wakes between 6:00 and 7:00. AND the baby slept through the night for the SECOND NIGHT IN A ROW. I got 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night! YAY! I feel like a new woman.
    Still going out to get that clock though to see if I can get her to stay in her room past 7:00.

  60. We went through this last summer with our youngest daughter. She was just over 1 when it started. She would get up between 4:00 – 5:00 a.m. every day. It wasn’t the light. We had her room completely dark. It lasted for about 4 months and then suddenly stopped and now she normally gets up around 8:00. Instead of whining about it I took the opportunity to go get a walk every morning before it got too hot. Yes, I was tired, and had to go to bed earlier myself. It does end, so hang in there.

  61. I wish I had time to read all these comments! Our oldest is very much a lark, and at 3 1/2 very rarely sleeps past 6:30 (and of course, we had the 5:00 a.m. wake-up call for many, many months when she was younger).When she was quite small – 12-months-ish, I’d guess – we’d pull her into bed with us for as long as we could stand being kicked and stood on.
    By the time she was 18 months old, though, we started teaching her to entertain herself in the morning. We’d put a bowl of dry cereal (she always woke ravenous; still does) and a sippy cup and maybe a few books next to her little chair, put it in front of the TV, and make sure it was tuned to PBS Kids. She’d learned how to turn the TV on by herself by then. At first, that might only have gotten us an extra fifteen minutes or so, but now she doesn’t usually start bugging us until 7:00 or 7:30, by which time we really, really need to be up anyway. 🙂
    Also, I try to go to bed really early (usually fail…). Like, 9:30 p.m.-it-will-still-be-light-for-another-hour early. Not being sleep deprived is huge.

  62. um @Erin, you can have a philosophy of sleep begets sleep until you meet a kid for whom it doesn’t. Then it becomes not a philosophy but a tool that works for some kids. (Many from what I understand, but certainly not mine!) And my guess on why all the kids you know with early bedtimes sleep really well is that those are high-sleep-need kids. Believe me, you would not have wanted to deal with my low-sleep-need 3-year-old when she had had accidentally gotten too much sleep.One funny thing – I note we tend to hang out with other families that have similar schedules, because that works. So most of the people we ever have playdates/dinner/etc with get up at 8ish, have dinner at 7 or 8, put their kids down at 9 or 10, and go to bed at midnight or later themselves. That’s my “normal” – I intellectually know there’s a whole world of families who get up at 5 or 6, have dinner at 5 or 6, have their kids down by 8 and go to bed at 10…but I don’t spend much time with them because even if we like each other the timing never works out. They invite us to dinner at our afternoon snack time, we invite them to dinner at their bedtime…sometimes it’s fun, but it’s easier to hang with people who are on a similar schedule. Which I guess just means it’s easy to see what we do as the “normal”.

  63. Yeah, we’re in the ‘6:30 am wake up is sleeping in’ camp. DS has been consistently waking up between 5:00 am & 6:30 for as long as I can remember (he’s 2 now).After we sleep trained about 6 weeks ago, and before he got sick recently, I began putting him back in his crib (after BF) and rubbing his back while telling him it was too early to get up and everyone was asleep…Papa was asleep, dog was asleep, cat was asleep. This worked the 3 times I tried it, to my amazement (and then he got sick so everything went out the window). So another option for anyone willing to try another technique.
    He fussed when I first put him in the crib, but with the talk and the back rubbing, I guess it just made sense to him and he curled back up to go to sleep until 6:30 or so. I will add that when he wakes up at 5 or 5:30 I can tell he’s still tired. It’s not like he’s waking up all happy.
    He also has his mornings of waking up at 4:30 (thankfully less and less…it happened more from 15-21 mos). But since sleep training, I refuse to get up at that hour. So, I consider it still night which means I go in and follow my sleep training procedure: give him a few minutes to try to fall back asleep on his own (usually a mild cry), if he’s still awake after 2-5 mins (depending on the strength of the cry), then I go into his room rub his back or BF him, and tell him to go to back to sleep. And he goes in the crib no matter what. He usually will just go back to sleep, or once in a while will cry for a minute or two before falling back to sleep.
    I never thought I’d let him cry to sleep, even for a minute or two, but it’s so different now that he’s older and I can tell it’s tension releasing for him. And it often only lasts a cry or two, and he’s out.
    We haven’t gotten up at 4:30am since we’ve sleep trained. And those really early wakings are rare now. 5 or 5:30 is much more common. Sometimes I can BF him and put him back down. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Now that I can get a full night’s sleep, 5 or esp. 5:30 is manageable (though I still always try to get him back to sleep…esp after reading the NurtureShock chapter on sleep).
    When he was waking multiple times in the night (Birth – 22 months) it was awful depending on the number and length of wake-ups. For a period around 12 mos I spent many mornings asleep in the rocking chair with DS on my lap from 4 or 4:30 until 6am or so. I would just fall asleep (and so would he)…I was SO exhausted. Or if we HAD to be up before six, I basically parked us on the sofa (me lying down with DS sitting on top of me), turned on the TV (usually it was In the Night Garden which captured his attention for long periods), and gave myself until 6am to at least rest my eyes somewhat. 6am I could function. I was just too exhausted to be fully awake any earlier. It was the only way I could cope.
    Anytime DS sleeps past 7am (which has happened maybe 3 times in his existence) we’re always worried that something’s wrong, but don’t want to go in because we might wake him.
    @Charisse, I’ve noticed that a lot too – that we tend to hang out more with people on roughly the same schedule. Just easier that way.

  64. Yep, both my kids are early risers and both went through a phase of getting up at 4AM when they hit 2 – ack! We tried everything, EVERYTHING, and nothing worked. We finally just started going to be earlier and dealing with it, knowing it would pass eventually. Two positives from this: we got a lot done on those weekends before noon and now that they are getting up at 6 it feels like sleeping in 🙂

  65. I actually just wrote a song parody about this exact issue. For anyone who listens to country music, there is a song about the work day ending early and having a drink called, “It’s 5 oclock somewhere”. My song is from the viewpoint of my baby saying, “It’s only half past 5, but I don’t care. It’s 8 o’clock somewhere!”

  66. @Charisse : That is so totally true… we are on a very similar “normal” to you, and it’s so true that you tend to run with the families that have similar schedules…But I have a feeling with my oldest going into Kindergarten that I might have to change groups?
    But my late sleepers sleep and nap well, so I think as long as they get the sleep they need for their bodies, it’s all good. 🙂

  67. Now with 2 kids the only way my husband and I get to excersize routinely is to get up at 5 am and hit the gym. We take turns going to the gym in the morning and the other person can sleep, fold laudry, whatever. At least now we are accustomed to getting up at 5, so should head off some of the awfulness of those crazy early rising by either child.I guess it is the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy.

  68. we have a 4.5 yo daughter who rarely gets enough sleep, tho we have tried everything on the list except the wake-up clock. This week its 5:20 to 5:45 awake. She can tell time. SHe knows the rules. SHe has tantrums. Right now we are trying, stay in your bed until 30 minutes after you wake up (when the big hand is on the 3) and you can have a prize (monster bubbles, necklace, baby-in-the-pocket, clearance sale clothes, etc). 2 mornings in a row she has said, “I’ll earn a prize tomorrow”. This is her choice, but meanwhile she is relentlessly demanding we find that tiny lost pocket baby, as if there are no other toys. If we locked her out, she’d break the door. Again this is when we use the time- consuming “collaborative problem solving”, and she is more pleasant, but we are not sleeping!

  69. @Shalini, don’t know where you are, but in our town (SF) there are 3 public school start times and school choice; need I even say we went with a 9:30 school over the hill rather than the 7:50 school in our district?

  70. My twins will turn 3 (THREE?!) in 2 weeks (seems like just yesterday I was writing to Moxie asking what to do with newborns!) and BabyB has just started waking up crying ~4:45am EVERY DAY. This coincided with giving up her paci, but who knows if it’s a real correlation or just coincidence? Thankfully BabyA mostly sleeps right through it, for the full extra 1:15 until we wake her up at 6 (on weekdays, since we’ve got to get a moveon to get ready for daycare/work)I’m not sure if it’s the lack of paci, too much light (I’m about ready to foil the windows) or the birds outside (we have a lot of birds nearby, and the wood thrushes start in at 4:30 every morning — though we had the windows closed and A/C on the other night and *I* never heard them — not sure if she did.
    I refuse to bring her into bed with us — mostly because we tried it and she just comes in and wiggles and talks. I did go in and cuddle her back to sleep in the comfy chair in their room yesterday — so it was pretty nice, but I’d rather she just go back to sleep — she really needs that extra hour (and so do I).
    I’m starting to think it’s time to convert the cribs to daybeds, and then give her some quiet toys she can play with in their room. But because she wakes up crying, I’m not sure she’d be coherent enough to get up and play. Probably a lot of trial and error coming our way…

  71. I have an insomniac. The first time he wakes from a nightmare is around 12-1am. The second time is sometime between 3-4am. At all times he comes in our room and crawls in between us. Luckily we have a king size bed. If I’m awake, I take him back to his bed. If I’m asleep, I just let him stay with us. Some nights are really bad and I wind up taking him back to his bed 3-4 times. I would leave him in with us but if he is not sleeping, he is wiggling. Which keeps me from sleeping.This is the same child who only took 45 minute naps when his twin brother would sleep 3-4 hours. And as a tiny baby, if he awoke and didn’t see me, he immediately began to cry. And he woke every few minutes. I started sleeping next to him on the couch, with him in a bouncer, to get him to sleep more. He’d wake, see me, go back to sleep. Ugh.
    I honestly don’t think there is a cure. He immediately comes to find me when he wakes. He’s now 5 1/2. I expect this to go on for a while longer. If I make him go back to his room after a nightmare, he turns on all the lights and wakes his brother up so he’s not alone. Sigh.
    But I know when he grows out of this I will miss waking up and seeing his sweet little grinning face. He is the world’s most sleepless kid, but he is also the sweetest. Good thing too.

  72. The pickles, when we get them, are so big we can’t close our fists around them, and they are so briny and crisp and delicious my mouth fills up with water. I can remember everything about those pickles – the snap they made when we bit into them, the warty cool skin of them, the cloudy brine in the jar swirling with garlic and spices.

  73. Yet, considering the renewed interest in menswear (quite a few online shops specialised in cutting edge designs for men were launched in the last few months) and in beauty products for men, there will definitely be a change in trends and we will probably see very soon further cinematic ads shot by famous directors promoting products for men.

  74. It’s a great beer and worth seeking out. It’s widely available in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, but as for Geneva, you may need to ask one of the stores that carry Lake Placid in Geneva (Wegman’s, Byrne Dairy, Halsey’s, Tops, Fastrack) why they don’t have the new seasonal yet, and they’ll contact Lake Placid’s distributors (Wright-Wisner, I believe, serves the Rochester area). Sometimes it takes a little kick in the pants from customers to get the retailers to order a new seasonal! You could also take a trip to Rochester if you don’t feel like waiting. I made a few phone calls – I’ll let you know what I find out.

  75. Some time ago, I needed to buy a good car for my organization but I didn’t have enough money and couldn’t buy something. Thank heaven my father adviced to take the home loans at banks. So, I acted so and was satisfied with my financial loan.

  76. Hey There Ineedmoresleep,Thanks, on a related note, If you ever have trubloe sleeping and mention that you’re considering taking sleeping pills, someone invariably asks if you’ve considered natural sleep remedies. Your friends are probably just concerned about your health and welfare, and they want to make sure you’ve considered gentler alternatives to prescription medicines. However, if you’re anything like me, you may view alternative medicine with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, do these herbs and flowers really work? You might be surprised to find that many natural sleep remedies have actually faced rigorous clinical test methods. Let’s see what researchers found out.Good Job!

  77. Long time listener, long time caellr. Just want to say thanks for the new hard data. Like many of your fans, the telemetry means the most to me, and I look forward to the day when I can use your expert code to make my own site. I want to be able to track Trixie’s sleep and diaper use on my own site, so please let me know when that will be possible.

  78. How funny (but not really) that you wrote about this today, I amsolt posted a comment under the Sleep Thread yesterday I’ve noticed Trixie *was* taking long naps (good), but that she was going to bed at night late (not so good, unless you’re night owls) and then getting up early in the mornings (again, not good unless school starts at 6:30am).Sorry, I can’t offer any meaningful insight that might be helpful. (This is where I’m a *little* thankful that we don’t have a baby yet). Just have the cat. And he gets let out when he wakes up, then we go right back to sleep. But, then again, he naps all day long!As adorable as Trixie is, I have to agree with hannah.Best of luck next week as we start day light savings time hey, come to think of it, I’ve been getting up a little earlier the last week or so. For the most part, it’s been easier now that it’s daylight sooner (I am so a night person). That might have something to do with her sleep (or lack of sleep) schedule.

  79. The new Trixie dashboard is to Trixieheads what the lower-third stock cwerlar is to those who favor Maria Bartiromo. We can see clearly that Trixie, like Martha before her, is already thinking multi-media with Telemetry that will translate nicely into the television of today and tomorrow.

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