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My son, now 15 months old, was sleeping through the night, and waking up consistently at 6am. However, over the past few months he had been gradually waking up earlier. Now he wakes up consistently at 5am. For a while I was able to go in and say "it is still too early; go back to sleep" and he would lie back down and fall asleep for another half hour - 45 minutes. However, that no longer works, and he won't go back to sleep until after he's had a bottle of milk.

The other night he was woken up accidentally around 11pm (he normally goes to sleep around 8:30pm). We gave him a small bottle of milk, and then put him back to bed. The next morning he still woke up at 5am, so I do not think it is an issue of him being awakened by hunger.

How can we help shift his wake up time back to 6am-6:30am? Waking up at 5am each morning is getting to be a real strain on our schedules.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Make sure there's no reason for him to wake up.

  • The temperature is suitable, and he's tucked in well. His blanket and/or sleeping sack covers him and isn't tangled around him.
  • The room is totally dark, except perhaps a small nightlight.
  • Your home is as quiet as you can reasonably make it.
  • Perhaps add ambient sounds?

Our toddler also had a period of waking at 5 in the morning, and we couldn't get him to sleep longer no matter what we tried -- the above were all taken care of and have not changed since his birth. After about 2 months it changed again and he slept until 6. Now he'll sometimes sleep until 7 if we're lucky, but that doesn't mean he'll have an early straight again some day.

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He kicks off the blankets immediately most nights, but the room is warm enough that his onesie is sufficient. We've deliberately avoided being completely quiet when he sleeps in the hopes he learns to sleep more soundly (and it seems to have worked; his bedroom is right next to ours, and next to the bathroom, and despite our keeping both his and our door open, late-night TV or bathroom runs don't disturb him). Recently we've added a humidifier, which acts as white noise, but that makes no difference. The house is dark and silent at 5am, though (until he wakes up, that is!). –  Beofett Jan 3 '12 at 20:02
    
Unfortunately, it seems your answer was the correct one (at least in our case): nothing we've tried seems to influence the time he wakes up, and even our pediatrician has said "some kids just wake up early, and there's nothing you can do about it". –  Beofett Feb 15 '12 at 14:51
    
@Beofett: If it's any consolation, my son also no longer sleeps until 7. As I mentioned in the answer, it just varies over time. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 15 '12 at 15:37

A lot of parents hate giving up that extra hour in the evenings, but the best way to get your son to wake up an hour later is to put him to bed an hour later. 15 month-olds just plain don't need as much sleep as 5 month-olds. The great and terrible thing about parenting is that as soon as you get one part down, it changes.

Other than that, we generally focus on teaching our kids to be quiet and respectful of people still sleeping when they wake up, rather than trying to get them to sleep against their inclinations. 15 months is a little young for him to really grasp that completely, but you can do things like give him something quiet to play with and go back to bed yourself.

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7  
I hope my son is an exception to your observations: it seems like there is absolutely no correlation between bedtime and wake-up time. We've tried deliberate and slow changes, as well as unplanned late evenings, but it's like the little guy has an alarm clock that he's very good at hiding from us. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 3 '12 at 21:18
    
+1 for your second paragraph. It's okay to be awake as long as you don't require the remaining household to be, too. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 3 '12 at 21:19
    
@Torben - it's the same with us. No matter what reasonable time we put her to bed at, she'd be up at the same time every morning... –  Swati Jan 10 '12 at 17:40
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun Mine also has an incredibly accurate internal alarm. No change will work well overnight - to Beofett I would say, plan on about a two week adjustment period and then if luck shines, it'll only take a few days for the change to kick in. :-) –  balanced mama Feb 12 '13 at 4:57
    
When our daughter does this my wife and I take it in turns to get her out of earshot and distracted. One day I have the lie in, the next she does. Between parents the currency of love is sleep. –  James Bradbury Oct 11 '13 at 11:13

I also beleive that if you leave him some quiet toys to play with in his bedroom he will play by himself for that extra 45ish minutes. Put a digital clock in his room and above the hour number make a sign that says 6. Tech him that when the numbers match he can come get you.

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amazon.com/American-Innovative-Teach-Talking-Nightlight/dp/… can be set to change colors at a given hour, then they just need to learn "when the clock turns green you can come find us". –  cabbey Jan 9 '12 at 20:14

There are a variety of clocks available for toddlers which signal to them when it is okay to get out of bed. The idea is similar to what Morah Hochman suggested, but is built into the clock. Many of the clocks also provide ambient sounds and other sleep aides besides indicating that it's okay to get out of bed.

A friend of mine used the Okay to Wake clock with a lot of success, but there other less expensive alternatives.

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Somewhat counter intuitively, I seriously recommend you look at his daytime sleep. The kids at that age need a solid - up to 2h - daytime nap. If they don't get that, it can really impact their night time.

This was our experience - twice. It takes a bit to wrap your head round, I admit!

I'm not suggesting this is an authoritative guide but has some food for thought and may stimulate further reading up:

http://baby.about.com/od/sleep/f/Can-A-Good-Baby-Nap-Pattern-Improve-Nighttime-Sleep.htm

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Could you provide some additional pointers to papers on the issue? –  oezi Mar 9 '13 at 21:45
    
This was purely experience and things I read (no immediate citations, sorry). If you search on google you can find similar comments but I couldn't find a definitive source. –  Aitch Mar 10 '13 at 20:58

Train him by not responding to his "i'm crying, take me out" until a fixed time in the morning. Worked nicely with out little rascal ;)

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Whenever my son just suddenly wake up on a certain hour of the night/early morning, i normally move him/sort of wake him an hour before the waking time. lets say you say he wakes up 5 in the morning, ill wake up 4ish to just move him. that way i somehow disrupt the waking habit. i do this and adjust the time until i can get it back to the normal waking hour.... i've read this in a book and tried it. it worked for us :) hope this will help you.

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