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Episode Highlights:

  • Sample Scheduled for every stage of naps to adjust with ease
  • Understanding how to adjust and how long it will take to go back to “normal”

Ready to Sleep Better?

Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Welcome to the kids sleep show, where we help tired parents from around the world to get their children to fall asleep independently, sleep through the night and build healthy sleep habits for life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together.
Hello, and
welcome to the kids sleep show. My name is Courtney Zentz. Thank you for joining me today, we are actually going to be covering a huge challenge that many parents face today. And that is early morning wakings. So I’m excited to have you here we are going to go ahead and dive right in to this common challenge. So with our bodies to do a little bit of background and kind of setting up for where early morning wakings creep in, and how it happens is to talk initially around the required amount of sleep that your little one needs. So each of us have a specific amount of sleep we need in a 24 hour period. And based on our age, our body builds up what’s essentially known as sleep pressure throughout that particular timeframe between when we wake in the morning, and when we go to bed at night. Now the earlier we are from an infant standpoint, the sooner we need to sleep in between cycles, right? So, you know, infants between four and 12 months
are kind of slowly progressing
from five naps to four naps to three naps to two naps and then somewhere around one to one and a half, you’re moving to one nap a day. Right. So the recommendations to ensure that your child is getting the right amount of sleep, I follow actually the American Academy of sleep medicine, they’re pretty closely aligned to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But those are the totals that I kind of use as a range for how much little ones should be sleeping throughout the day. So again, it’s going to vary a little bit by your child’s age. Now as we talk a bit more about that sleep pressure, it actually can be very impactful to early morning wakings.
so the first thing that parents need to manage and monitor is if your child is still napping, what the last nap to bedtime window is, okay. So that means that for example, if your child is four months of age, you need to make sure that they are going down to sleep for the night, two hours after they wake. If your child is eight months of age, they need to be going down for sleep three hours after their nap. For children over the age of one, you typically get about a four hour stretch, sometimes four to five hours depending on kind of that age that they fall into between one and two, where they need to be awoken from their nap and then put down at an appropriate bedtime roughly between four and five hours. Right. So that last nap to bedtime window protects a child from becoming overtired. overtired in our body manifests itself with very stimulating looking response, right? So kids that are overtired often get very hyper, often get very ramie and will kind of go go go go go and then they crash. What essentially is happening is there’s too much sleep pressure built up when kids get overtired. And as a result of that, it causes your brain to say well wait a minute, if you are basically telling me to stay awake, then I need to help you out. So it’s going to release some stimulant hormones, those stimulant hormones sort of flood your body, and then make it really hard for you to settle at bedtime and also they kind of stay in there throughout the night. So it can make it for a very dis dissatisfying sleep overnight, right lots of wakings and also trigger into early morning waking. So the first thing you want to watch is the last nap to bedtime window. If you’ve got that sorted. The next thing you want to look at is making sure that you’re not putting your child down too drowsy at bedtime, if they are going down very drowsy at bedtime, but they are sleeping through the night. You can often see early morning wakings happen because they’re waking in between latest stages of sleep and looking for that drowsiness again to go back down to sleep. Okay, so it’s just something that you want to make sure you’re paying attention to, to ensure that your little one knows how to settle themselves at bedtime. And then around 5am if they wake up, you give them a few minutes and they will put themselves back to sleep for another sleep cycle or two. The next thing that we want to look at is actually hunger. Right? If you have a four and a half month old baby for example that you put down at seven o’clock at night, by 5am. Assuming that they’re getting you know the rest of their intake in the daytime hours, they may actually be hungry so it may make sense for you to go in and offer them a feeding and then put them back down for another cycle or two. The biggest thing with hunger is really trying to balance Whether it’s a one versus a need, okay, and what I mean by that, and I talk a lot about that, in my slumber Made Simple Facebook group, which you’re all welcome to join. But basically, when you’re trying to figure out if something is habit versus hunger, right, when children are hungry as a parent, it’s our job to feed them. All right. So I don’t recommend that you just rip things away and say, Sorry, kids starve and cry. That’s not my philosophy. Nor really should it be anyone’s if a child’s hungry they need to eat if they’re using food as a mechanism. For a habit standpoint, that’s where you have to start to remove those habits, and ensure that your little one has that skill set to go back down. So again, if they’re actually hungry, at 5am, and you can tell typically, because you pick them up, for example, and they don’t calm down until there’s either a breast in their mouth or a bottle in their mouth, right? That is traditionally a hunger based feeding versus a habit based feeding. Now one of the things that you need to manage and what I talked about in some of my other episodes is making sure that your child isn’t getting so much food in the middle of the night that they’re not eating during the day, right? People asked me when my little one should sleep through the night. And really, it’s a loaded question. When your child gets 24 to 32 ounces in the day, they can typically sleep through the night.
So that’s the
number that you kind of need to keep in the back of your head, as far as you know, is this habit? Or is this hunger, if your child’s eating 32 ounces of milk in the daytime hours that 5am waking is probably more habit than hunger, just as an example. Okay, the next thing we want to look at is external lighting. And this one is actually a surprise to many parents, because they don’t really think that it’s significant when they’re kind of in their child’s room. So the first thing is the hatch, I do recommend that you turn the light off on that. I think lights are stimulating to children, it’s stimulating to the brain and no adult likes to sleep with a large bright light on right, your kids don’t either. Okay. So when it comes to external lighting, take a look at, you know, things like the noise machine, the elephant that is the humidifier, if you will, right, the monitor that has a green light on it to show that it’s working. When you actually go into your little ones room, and you kind of let your eyes adjust in the middle of the night, you’ll find it’s actually quite bright in there. And I do agree with many professionals that children sleep better in the dark, they are not afraid of the dark. That is where their body is most able to dictate the difference between day and night and help their circadian rhythms to be set. So definitely go in take a peek for external lighting. I know I’ve done it, I took white electric tape and basically taped over every single light source in my kids rooms when they were babies. And then you know, I also am someone who is very happy to use blackout blinds, and blackout curtains. My kids rooms go from an immediate day light to immediate midnight, in the matter of about five seconds with using both of those, because external light sources can also be impactful in the early morning hours. So between four and 6am, it’s not only a child’s lightest cycles of sleep at 4am, their bodies actually the coldest that it is all night. So that can be awoken by by that which I’m going to chat a little bit about in a few minutes.
But also
the light sources that come in with the sunrise and such that can bother a child and wake them up as well. The next is the noises that are external, right. So we have a car that comes down our street every morning to deliver the newspaper. You know that can be something your kid hears. I had a client recently that had the old radiators in their farmhouse. And they were the steam and I excuse the proper terminology. But they were essentially the steam radiators that I actually had my first house when we bought it and they are loud because they’re pushing water through it and they’re kind of pinging a bit. So things like that the shower, turning on the TV on for mom and dad, like any of those types of things between four and six in the morning can actually be a little bit alarming from a noise standpoint. So I do recommend using a noise machine or some sort of white noise in between as a barrier between you and them to help ensure that they’re not being awoken by something like that birds chirping my daughter sometimes will say, Mommy, the birds woke me up, you know, I mean, granted, it’s like 630, but they still you know, annoy her and wake her up. So take a listen and make sure there’s nothing from that standpoint. The next thing you want to look at is the temperature as I alluded to a bit, your body is the coldest at 4am. Okay? Children actually prefer to be cooler than warm. So an ideal temperature for your room is between 68 and I would say about 72 degrees for your child, sometimes even as low as like 66 Kids prefer cool, again and something that you want to manage you You know, if you see that your little ones feet are a little cold or their hands are a little cold, that’s normal, but you can make yourself feel better by using something like a wearable blanket or putting some socks on them, etc. And that can help to alleviate any worry that you may have about them being cold and make sure that they are comfortable. But between 68 and 72 is ideal. The next thing is keeping them in the crib or in their bed. So what typically happens when this type of early morning waking arises, is because for a period of a couple days, you took them out, right? So let’s assume there was a cold and at 5am, they woke up because they were sniffly coughing, hacking, whatever it may be, right. And you went in and said, you know, a little Billy, I’m sorry, let’s get up and I’ll you know, hold you for a bit to try to keep them upright. While all of a sudden Little Billy thinks that that’s now the time to wake for the day. So that is something that you do want to pay attention to in children that are in a bed, right? Like so older toddlers, and school aged children. It’s habit based, right? If you’re going to allow them to get up at that particular time, then why wouldn’t they right, and oftentimes, when they wake, they get to eat some breakfast, watch some TV, all of those things are exciting to kids, but you don’t want that happening at 5am. Right. So with that, you do need to set some boundaries around when they are allowed to wake using things like a reward chart or
something like a definitive, okay to wake clock can be helpful. I know for my kids, they’ve got coloring books and crayons, a couple Legos that they can build in there. And frankly, you know, they’re not allowed out of the room, you know, you come out and there’s a consequence, right, and they’re making that choice. So, you know, my kids are pretty structured at this point. Obviously, I blame the day job, but you want to make sure that you’re managing what you’re allowing them to do, frankly, like depending on the age, right toddlers and school aged children, it’s a behavior based change, you are not welcome to get up. And here’s what your options are, you can either lay in bed read, you can go back to sleep, you can color, but I do not want to see you until you know insert the time that’s appropriate. Now I have some friends that prefer their kids to sleep to like seven o’clock in the morning, and I try to explain to them like while that’s lovely, anytime after 6am is technically from a body clock standpoint, considered a normal time to wake up. Okay, so just something I wanted to throw out there because we’re not in college anymore. And unfortunately, their little body clocks are somewhat set and regulated. Okay? When they’re babies, if this happens from like teething or a cold, or what have you, and you know, they kind of just got used to getting up, you’re going to want to wean yourself back out of there. And it made me when they wake at five, you don’t pick them up, but you offer some gentle comfort in another way, but help them to low back into another cycle of sleep. We also want to look at motivation to wake up early. And so this one actually hit me in the butt a couple months ago with my kids because I told them we were going to Hershey Park, right. And so we live in Pennsylvania, and they literally were both up at like five o’clock in the morning freaking out that we were going to Hershey Park. And they were so excited. So I didn’t have like the heart to burst their bubble. But at the same time, it was a lesson for me to basically as much as it is fun to tell them we’re doing certain things that I got to keep some of that stuff to, you know, keep some of that stuff to myself because it just motivates them to get up super early. And I don’t want kids especially on a day we’re going to Hershey Park up at five o’clock in the morning. Luckily, they both fell asleep on the way there. But it’s one of those things that like if there’s motivation to wake up early, like I have some clients that will want to sleep in. So they go in and give their children at bedtime a tablet and say okay, like when you get up in the morning, you can watch on your tablet, let mommy and daddy sleep. And the problem with that is your son and daughter getting up at 5am because they want to watch you know vampirina and they’re not going to sleep because they know that that tablet is there, it’s in their room. And that they can just sit and lay for two hours and watch you know endless TV. So definitely be careful of that motivation to wake up early with something that you know they’re excited about. A lot of times, I also work with families around nap adjustments, so they’ll sort of start to conform the nap to the early morning waking which conforms the bedtime to then happening at like six at night. And they sort of get in this hamster wheel where they go. I don’t know how to get out of this right because now all of a sudden she’s waking at 530 and going to bed at six at night because she can’t last any longer. So I will tell you it is hard a little bit with younger ones to balance this but do your best to not adjust naps outside of your ideal, right. So if your child is waking at like seven o’clock in the morning, right and they’re they’re seven months old, they should be taking their first nap around 10 o’clock, when you don’t want to do is have them get up at five and then start that first nap at eight because now they’re going to sleep till we’ll say 930 they need another nap at 1230 and then they’ll fight you on the third nap, right? So you’ve got to try to push them a little
bit when
that happens to force them out. The early morning wakings, I will tell you nine times out of 10, early wakings happen because a kid’s overtired, right. So definitely pay attention to the total sleep needs. And I would say start there, if you’re looking at any of these going home, I wonder which one works best for my family, right. So you don’t want to adjust the naps as best you can help it because then again, you’ll start to mess with bedtime, and you get into this hamster wheel of timing being totally off. So try to be as consistent as you can. And if it means you have to throw in a power nap somewhere for 30 minutes to take the edge off, then so be it.
so that actually leads into my next one, which is the right sleep at the right time. So on my website, www dot tiny transitions.com. Right there, on the homepage, there’s a banner. And that banner flips every couple seconds. And one of the things in there is a schedule generator. So you can actually go out and create a schedule for your son or daughter based on their age. And it will tell you pretty much what the right sleep at the right time looks like. So definitely take a peek at that. It’s also out on my Instagram at tiny transitions sleep coach and be sure to follow me when you’re out there. But the schedule generator is in my profile, so you can find it there as well as on my website. The next thing is moving bedtime earlier or later, right. So the first thing I always mentioned is look at overtired after you generate that schedule to see where the timing is and making sure that it’s set up properly. Okay, you’ll want to try for a few days of moving bedtime a little earlier, right? So typically, a bedtime for kids, really, from the age of four and under is between seven and 8pm. Okay, so you want to make sure that you’re adjusting that bedtime and then give it a few days, right, this isn’t going to be where you make a change. And the next day they sleep in till eight o’clock, you’ve got to give their body a few days to reset. So it’s sort of just like daylight savings, it takes about a week for your body to adjust, right. So try it for a few days moving bedtime earlier, even by just 15 minutes can make a huge impact as insignificant as it seems to avoid that overtired. On the flip side, if you’re finding that your little one is just totally ADAL able to settle themselves at bedtime, but it’s taking them for ever to do so then you want to look at whether or not their bedtime actually needs to be later. So I had a client recently, that was about three and a half, still taking a two hour nap at daycare. And on the days he would nap, he would really struggle to go down for bed. But in the days that he was home on the weekends, he would go right to sleep. And what we kind of ascertained was that obviously there was a little too much sleep happening for him. Because every kid has specific ranges, right, between three and five, you need 10 to 13 hours, right? So every kid’s gonna be different. And what we figured out was basically we needed to cap the nap at daycare, let them take the edge off with like a half hour, but then to wake up and you know, just play quietly on his mat and such, or frankly, to skip the nap altogether. And make sure bedtime was happening at seven o’clock when mom wanted it to. Right. So a lot of it’s about adjustments. And looking at your ideal schedule. What’s ideal for you, and ideal for your neighbor, and ideal for your girlfriend and ideal for your cousin are all going to be different, right? Like every family has different needs different ones. I personally like my kids to go to bed early. I am an early bird, I’m up at 5am every day, I don’t care if they get up at six o’clock, right? Come downstairs eat some breakfast doesn’t bother me. But you know, I have other friends that are the opposite. They’re kind of like they like to sleep in. So their kids are up a little bit later. So they sleep in a little later what works for you. Good, do you right? Just know that as long as you’re following the, you know, optimal health recommendations, you’ll be in good shape from that standpoint. And the final way in which you can get over a hump to get them going back down. And particularly this is for infants under the age of one is going to be something called waking to sleep, right. So it does take a couple days to do this. But essentially what you’re doing is resetting them in a sleep cycle. Okay, so let’s assume that your little one is waking at 430 every day and will just not go back to bed. Right? What you as a parent have to do is set an alarm which sounds crazy for like 415 in the morning, okay, go into their room, and you basically blow on their foot, lightly touch their foot, almost like with a feather blow on their face something where you, you sort of adjust them, but they’re not actually waking. Right. So it’s called wake to sleep if you want it to Google it. But basically what you’re doing is resetting a sleep cycle so that they start over in whatever cycle they’re in, and then it will prolong them kind of sleeping in. It’s almost like think of you know, your husband or wife if you if they’re snoring right and you nudge them, all of a sudden they adjust and then they’re quiet, right? Because they’ve kind of fallen back into a new cycle. You’re disrupting on purpose, their sleep cycle and creating a new one. So that is a little bit more around
some of
actually all of
the reasons why your little one could be waking from an early morning waking standpoint. So hopefully This has been helpful for you today. And I do want to invite you all to my Facebook group. It’s called slumber Made Simple. I do weekly live, sleep q&a. And I also have a save your sanity sleep boot camp. The next one is kicking off may 4 for when you listen to this episode, but I do hold them every couple weeks. So again, be sure to jump out right to my homepage, www dot tiny transitions calm and then right up at the top, you can throw your email address in and you’ll get the invite or you can jump into my facebook group slumber Made Simple. That is where they are always hosted. And it is a full workshop five days lots of content, I give away so much information. I have so many parents come back to me and say like Thank you, you saved my sanity. And we are all sleeping awesome. And you know, it’s free, which is the greatest part. I’m a very big believer in education. And if I can help you to solve your struggles, wonderful, I want to do that. And if you do find at some point, you need help. I’m also available to do that as well. So thank you so much and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day it is here in Philadelphia, and wherever you are in the world. Thanks so much for tuning in Sweet dreams. Until next time, hold on one more thing before you go. As a valued listener of the kids sleep show. I want to help you build a great sleeper not just in the times you’re listening to the show. But all day every day. Every week of the year. I have a new Facebook group called slumber Made Simple. It’s a place to gather with other parents looking for sleep support laughs and the latest in sleep research to build a family that is rested and at their best day in and day out. If you want to be part of the community where you can get free sleep support, weekly training sessions, unbelievable content and so much more. Head on over to tiny transitions.com forward slash community that’s tiny transitions.com forward slash community or head over to Facebook and search slumber Made Simple. drop me a note and let me know when you join. I can’t wait to see you there.