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My son is 9 years old. Normal in all respects healthwise and active.

The challenge is that once or twice a week he wakes at 5:30 AM (occasionally as early as 4:30) and will wake me up and wants me to lay in bed with him.

I have tried:

  • changing bedtimes: later (9-10PM) / earlier
  • posted a sign on my door to not disturb before 6:30 AM

He often wants to sleep with one parent. Not sure if this somehow comes into play.

This lack of sleep for me is taking its toll and at my wits-end. If you have had this problem and found a remedy please state this in your response. What can be done to consistently nudge the sleep cycle so that he wakes after 6:30 AM? Thank you

Any suggestions to sharpen the question or update the tags are appreciated.

  • What a blessing your child gets up early. I don't suggest you find ways to make him stay up late. It would make more sense to me that he have a list of activities he can do if he wakes up early. Having him not disturb you before 6:30 is perfectly reasonable though. – Adam Heeg Dec 3 '16 at 23:43
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What can be done to consistently nudge the sleep cycle so that he wakes after 6:30 AM?

I don't think there is a reliable way to change his sleep cycle. Sleep cycles are quite personal, and some people (children and adults) just need less than others. There are some things you can do to influence the sleep cycle (later bedtime, lots of physical activity during the day), but this may not always work. It sounds like you have already exhausted this approach, but if not, it's certainly worth trying.

Another approach would be to address the immediate problem - your not getting enough sleep. Some things you could try:

  • Discuss the problem with your son. He should be quite old enough to understand - try to find a solution with him. Can he play until 6:30 before waking you? Teach him to read the clock, and talk about what he can do in the morning. Maybe promise a small treat (such as reading a short story to him) if he only wakes you at 6:30.
  • Allow him to sleep in bed with you. Opinions vary widely whether and for how long co-sleeping is okay, but as long as it does not bother you, it could be an option. You could tell him that it's okay for him to come to your bed if he is silent and does not kick or push you. However, you must decide if that is okay for you (and your partner, if you share a bed with him/her).

Finally, please try to find an interim solution for your lack of sleep. Lack of sleep causes loads of problems, in particular it makes it hard to solve other problems, because it makes you irritable and reduces creativity.

Try to get a nap during the day, or sleep longer during the weekend, or get someone else to look after your son from time to time - anything so you can sleep. You owe this to you and to your son.

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He's 9 and old enough for you to simply ask him this question. He can already read time. So tell him what time you are available (barring a serious problem) and reward him with your time if he obeys it. "I'll play cards/ a game/ go to the park with you for half an hour if you don't disturb me." Perhaps he just wants some quiet time with you when you are not busy doing all the stuff any parent has to do. He could help you. At 9 he's able to do nearly any household chore. That could free you to spend quiet time with him.

Also, do you eat together as a family? No TV or phones? It does sound to me like your child just wants YOU. That's a good thing!

Or, you could go to bed earlier.

The sleeping with one parent is the interesting tidbit. If he crawls in bed with BOTH of you, would that work?

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