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Episode Highlights:

  • Why are early morning wakings happening?

  • The deep-dive assessment into why your baby is waking early 

  • The tools to breakdown the wakings

  • The steps to fix early wakings

  • Sleep training methods to fix early morning wakings

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. I’m the founder of tiny transition sleep consulting. And I am here today to talk to you all about early morning wakings the struggles your little ones could have, and how we make sleep a thing that happens even after six o’clock in the morning. And that’s a very important number because a lot of parents will reach out to me and say, oh, gosh, Courtney, how do I get my little ones to sleep till eight or 730 or even seven would be nice. And unfortunately, their babies and getting up at six o’clock in the morning is actually actually a reasonably acceptable time for a child to wait. And we’re going to talk all about that. So if your little one is sleeping past 6am, you probably want to just pause right now because nothing I teach you really is going to help you to ensure that they get past exam, though, it is possible certainly to have a child that sleeps in a bit longer than that. And you have to go through this checklist to first understand why they’re waking right? I would say probably the number one question I got this week from both past clients as well as current clients and about 1500 people that are in my free sleep community called slumber Made Simple over out and Facebook is early morning waking suck. Why are they waking up? How do I fix this? What’s going on? Is this a habit? Is it hunger? Is it a want? Is it a need, right, and you have to start first with checking the box. Now, I make the most amazing early morning, wakings masterclass guide and video that goes into this stuff in a bit more detail which I’ll link in the notes. But if you listen today and give it at least two weeks of being consistent, you should be able to get past the struggles that you’re facing, if it is related to one of the things we’re going to talk about. And frankly, if it’s not, I’m going to teach you at the end of this podcast how to fix it, right because there is a little bit of sleep training that can go into it if you’ve really alleviated all of the variables. And the only thing left is a habit that you’ve created inadvertently, right. So I’m going to teach you how to fix that habit. But first, we’re going to learn how to identify what’s going on. So first and foremost, I want to be straight in that you have to assess your child’s total sleep needs. Everything that I do, all of the information I share is based on the American Academy of sick medicines guidelines, and what a child needs from an optimal health standpoint. So, for example, you know, a child between four and six months of age, they need, you know, roughly three to four naps in a day, they’re roughly awake at two to two and a half hours give or take. And the total amount of sleep they need is 12 to 16 hours. So you know, if your child’s sleeping six hours in the day, guess what they’re not doing at night sleeping 12 hours, right. So some of this does come down to like math and balance and sort of tweaking the timing, if your timing is a little bit off. And I will make sure to link to the ideal day breakout for each of your children as well as you know the link to the master class guidebook and all of my other information. If you find that again, after two weeks are sort of still struggling. But let’s see if we can get you fixed without having to go anywhere, or look at anything else. The first thing is, as I just talked about right balancing the right amount of sleep at the right times, you know, kids between six and 12 months need about three hours and daytime sleep kids between about four and six months need about four hours. And then kids kind of zero to three need between about five and six hours of daytime sleep. Now daytime sleep I would consider anything from 6am to about 7pm is what I look at as daytime, a lot of my sample schedules and such that you’ll see really operate on a seven to seven type of day because that’s ideal, right kids are going to sleep 11 to 12 hours overnight. So they go to bed at seven the expectation is that waking at six is great. You made it through the night, 11 hours totally age appropriate and accessible. But kids sleep in cycles, right? And all of their cycles are different. So if their durations a little bit different, it may have them going to bed at seven sleeping 12 cycles and waking up at 710 or 645. Right some of that kind of depends. The biggest thing is that you’re balancing the right amount of daytime sleep so that you know if they’re sleeping too much. They’re not waking up at five in the morning because they’re ready to start their day. I like clockwork I go to bed every night at 9pm and I wake up every day at 5am without an alarm. My body clock is set. Right? And so kids can sometimes set their own body clocks in the same way but they only need so much sleep like if I went to bed at seven o’clock I’d be up at you know, three or four right? Not that anybody else wants to be. Most people don’t want to be up at five


But I am I’m an early bird, I always have been, you know, we only need so a total amount of sleep that the same goes for children, right. If you have a six month old who sleeps four hours in the day, you’re going to slide an hour away from somewhere overnight. So look at your daytime sleep, start to track it, and start to look for trends to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep at the right time. The next thing you want to look at, in kind of a follow up to the daytime, is making sure that your last nap to bedtime window is not off somewhere, right? It needs to be the right amount because otherwise you’re going to trigger cortisol, which is a stimulant, and you’re going to settle fine, but you’re going to have disruptions overnight you’re going to have early morning wakings. Like a child going to bed overtired is the worst possible thing you could do for sleep. So definitely make sure you’re paying attention to that last nap to bedtime. Now, there are a lot of folks in this space that give different pieces of advice. And you know, you kind of have to follow who works for you. But I’ve worked with 1000s of kids all over the world and offer my private coaching services to them. And I will tell you that a fixed schedule with set a week windows that are equally balanced throughout the day, in my experience gives children the best balance in the day, right? Could you push them a little bit going into bedtime? Well, sure. But you have to be careful, right? Because if you trick into overtired, they’re gonna have a rough night. So definitely make sure that you’re paying attention to that last nap to bedtime window, and that you’re setting them up for success. The next thing you want to also look at is chronic short naps in the day, if you have short naps happening in the day, and your child is over five months of age, because before that naps don’t naturally consolidate. So just a heads up. But if your child over five months of age, and they’re having chronic short daytime naps, it’s probably screwing them up in the early morning hours, right? All of this stuff is connected guys. And if there’s naps are short, it either tells me that your timings off or they’re still relying on something to fall asleep, right. So if your timings good, but you’re still rocking them to sleep, putting the pacifier in bouncing them having to drive right. All of these things are props, that is a mechanism your child perceives they need to go to sleep, right. So they’re gonna wake up after one sleep cycle going, where’s my pacifier? Where’s my mom’s arms, like what’s going on? And they’re gonna expect you to do the thing again, in order to get them sleep. So just make sure that you’re balancing the day with the right timing for your naps and that your child is settling independently for that sleep. Okay? So that’s going to be the first you know, part with the daytime naps. Then we got to look at hormones. So you want to take an assessment of your child hormones. What happens is when they wake in the morning, their body’s hormone level known as adenosine is rising, that is sleep pressure, okay? So you want to make sure that your child doesn’t have too much sleep pressure, I IE overtired right, before they go into the nap. You also have to make sure that you’re balancing that last nap to bedtime to make sure that you don’t have it trigger stimulant hormones. At the same time, your body is preparing melatonin, right? A lot of people look at Melatonin is like some silver bullet for your kids to sleep. And it’s not right. Melatonin is not a sleep aid. Okay, so Contrary to popular belief, it is actually a hormone that prepares your body to sleep. So you kind of have hormone soup going on in your body at all different ages. And if there’s a hormone imbalance because your timings off, your diet is off, right? All these different factors, it can cause hormone soup, which can cause a total derailment of sleep and various different aspects. Okay, the next thing you want to look at is probably one of the more obvious which is the environmental factors of early morning wakings. Children liked to sleep cooler, but the coldest body temperature was actually four o’clock in the morning. So you have to pay attention to that and make sure you know, I always like to say a temperature gauge between 68 and 72 Fahrenheit or 20 to 22 degrees Celsius is ideal. And I do have a baby dressing guide out on my website at tiny transitions comm forward slash tools, so that you can find the proper way to dress your little one to make sure that the room temperature aligns with how you’re dressing them so that they’re not overheating and or cold. From a temperature standpoint, you want to make sure the room is also a Batcave, I’m a huge advocate in making sure that it’s pitch black. And here’s why. In the early morning hours, kids are in their lightest stages of sleep, okay, the first and deepest part of their sleep actually happens in that big chunk of sleep in the beginning of the night. So from about 7pm to 2am kids are in their deepest state. And then the rest of the night they sort of ping pong between the two latest stages of sleep, okay, which why you could probably run a vacuum under your kid at nine o’clock at night, but at four in the morning, you could barely tiptoe down the hallway to pee, and they wake up, right. And that’s because they’re in the lighter stage of sleep. Anything that is peeking through that window as the sun starts to come up with the bird starts to chirp or you know there’s any sort of wind that sort of making it


way through and is noisy clang in the shaves that happened to me the other night mo smashed my husband in the face like all night, and I was a little too lazy to get out of bed and fix it till Finally I like maybe set a curse word and got up and slammed the window shut. But he left the window open and it wasn’t intentional. But at three in the morning, you know, I like my sleep. And so when it’s interrupted, I get really pissed. And I got up and just like slam the windows shut. And, you know, he was annoyed to he but he just didn’t feel like getting out to get it. You know, the blind was playing and it’s annoying. So you’re in light of a lighter stage of sleep, and you want to make sure that you’re using things like blackout curtains or blackout blinds. I love blackout blinds from Home Depot. They’re about 40 bucks a window. They’re cellular, they’re cordless, they’re great, they have different sizes, you can get them like kind of ad hoc off the shelf, and put them up in a few minutes, and they literally pitch dark room. I also use blackout liner. So I’ll go to like Joanne’s fabrics, or Hobby Lobby we have here in Philadelphia where I live and I asked for about three yards of black outliner with one of their coupons. It’s probably about $5 and I earned on hemmed it, because at the time I didn’t know where the hell my sewing machine was. And I was probably not good enough at the time with my sewing machine. But I iron on him blackout liner to curtains I had already had hung in my daughter’s room in our first house right I now know how to sew so I could actually sew the liner and sew curtains which I’ve done. But um, you know, initially I didn’t know how to iron and I’m like I just need to sleep like today. So I took iron on him cut out the shape of the liner, you know, ironed it onto the curtains and hung up in a room was like winning. Okay, it’s blackout right? The blackout curtains are definitely much more available. Now I see them all over target and such. So that’s not a problem, but you really want that room to be a Batcave light and dark is the biggest controller of our circadian rhythm which is our body clock, right. So you want to make sure that room is as deep and dark as possible to avoid any sort of disruption sleep because as I mentioned, they’re ping pong in between the two lightest stages of sleep. You also want to pay attention to night lights, some night lights are super bright, right? Sometimes you can use things like I personally love the Himalayan sea salt lamp, I get it for you know 12 or 13 bucks at Walmart or Target or I think the one I got my daughter at Kohl’s.


So using something like that is great because it’s dimmable it’s very soft pink light. I know there’s supposed to be some good things that come off of the Himalayan sea salt. I honestly haven’t read enough about it, but finger can’t hurt. I also like the projectiles. They’re like a dimmable nightlight. If you do need a nightlight which I would only recommend for toddlers babies are not scared of the dark, keep it pitch dark in there. Those would be like some examples of what I would use. So my daughter likes having a little bit of a layout so she doesn’t kill herself in the middle of the night trying to go to the bathroom. And so we put the Himalayan sea salt lamp on and I’ll have it a little darker or a little lighter during the bedtime routine. And then once it’s time for her to go to sleep, I just turn it down like really faint enough that she could get up and kind of see the door because I really do black the heck out of their rooms. And she’ll trip on something and end up hurt herself. So I have it on like very faintly so she can see the door get out in the middle the night up. She goes back to bed doesn’t bother me. Right? Which is a great thing. The next you want to go around the room and look at the lights. Okay, look at the lights on every single device in the room is the elephant that’s the humidifier have the little green light covered with duct tape. The monitor have a little green light cover that with duct tape, right? Does this apparatus and this device and this light, like there’s a million things that our kids rooms, they’re actually quite bright, despite what they look like. So you definitely want to make sure that there’s not excess light coming from those things. I was actually quite surprised to do this test myself, where I went into my child’s room in the middle of the night one night when they were still babies. This was when we lived in our old house, I had just gotten into sleep coaching and sleep consulting. And my daughter’s or excuse me, it was my son Max’s room. And I kind of sat in there and let my eyes adjust a little bit without any other devices on he didn’t use a nightlight or anything. So it was really just like the monitor and the smoking elephant at the time, right. And oh my gosh, you could see everything that’s annoying, right? It really is annoying and light impacts a child’s ability to stay asleep. So definitely keep that in mind. I always recommend the eye pillows for the older kids, you can get some cute ones that are you know, different animals and such. And that, you know can be helpful. You also want to pay attention to things like devices. You know, I just finished with a client who had used a you a tablet and watched YouTube on the tablet every night during the bedtime routine. And their little one was like getting all this stimulation from these devices. And then was trying to go to sleep and he couldn’t drift off. But then the parents also gave him the iPad and let him have it so that in the morning when he woke, he could watch TV so they could sleep it let me explain what happens when you do that your kid gets up at three in the morning to watch YouTube, right? So definitely keep devices out of a kid’s bedroom. There’s no place for it in there. I get it’s tempting sometimes, but you’re just gonna end up creating a pretty rough habit.


That you definitely want to break. And that’s assuming you actually catch them. Sometimes parents don’t even know what’s happening. Until all of a sudden their kid becomes a dumpster fire and you’re like, what’s going on? And then you realize they’ve been getting up at three in the morning to watch YouTube. So keep an eye on that. And with that comes the next reason, right motivation. What’s your motivation to get up in the morning, if I knew every morning, when I woke up, I’d get a donut. I’m gonna get up earlier and earlier every day, because I want that donuts. It’s downstairs, like, you know, the same with the iPad. The same with watching TV, right? So my kids, I know, now, I cannot tell them if we’re doing something fun. Because if I do, they’re up at the crack of dawn excited to go to do all the things. And so while it sucks, because I sometimes have to keep a secret per se from them, instead of getting them excited, I value sleep too much. And I value their sleep too much to you know, cause any sort of commotion or


early waking as a result of being motivated to get up, right. Like, if there’s no boundaries around it, they’ll get up early earlier because they get to play and do things. So like my kids, for example, when they get up in the morning, you’re not allowed to watch TV until you eat breakfast, because breakfast is boring. You know, berenstein bears is fun. And so they’re not allowed to watch TV until the breakfast and that way it kind of creates a barrier of something a little boring. You know, Rice Krispies can only be so fun. Until, you know they’re allowed to to do some things in in the morning with regards to like TV and such before school, we’re not a huge TV family. Honestly, they probably watch the most before school, which is like a half hour and then you know, in the afternoon, sometimes we’ll watch like Jeopardy or something. But we kind of limit the TV around here, especially right now. It’s so beautiful out, like just get outside, you know, but just definitely balancing what that reward is to get up. Okay. Things like noises. I had a sleep client a couple months ago that couldn’t figure out why your kid was getting up every day at five. He was three months old. We work together beautifully that he was sleeping through the night he was napping on a schedule. He was three months old. And she had hired me to do private sleep consulting. And he did great, right, she was just heading back to work. And every day five o’clock little one would get up. Like what the heck, like everything is beautiful. But he’s up at five. You know what it was one day? Yeah.


We finally put two and two together, her husband was a nurse down in Philly. And he would get up every day to drive into Philadelphia for work. And the garage door was causing him to wake up. So we put the car outside one night as an experiment and didn’t open the garage. And guess what he slept till 630. So sometimes it seems like external factors. I used to live in a really old house that had


I didn’t even know what they’re called, like the old radiators where it was like steam and it was being being being being being shut. I mean, they were so loud. But, you know, I was like 25 at the time in my house. And you know, you sort of just knew that that was the radiator and you go back to sleep. But like for kids, they don’t know that right? So white noise is great in a room to drown some of it out. I know the birds are chirping outside pretty early around here. My son got up the other day, and I heard him yelling at his window to shut up. So the birds were annoying them they woke them up, you know, and sound like we live in, you know, the jungle or anything. But we do have bird feeders around and you know, the birds were eating breakfast and I guess they just pissed him off a little bit. So it’s kind of funny to hear him actually yelling out the window at the birds. But you know, just keep keeping point on like things like the shower the heat and stuff because sometimes that can be what causes it as well my husband wire up at five o’clock, he goes to the gym and I go downstairs actually and start working at 5am every day.


And so if you know my son is like our his room is on one side of the hallway, our room is on the other. And it is very hard some days for us to like ninja transfer downstairs without waking him up. And he’s always been an early riser, they go to bed at 730. So it’s not a problem. Like he gets plenty of sleep because he’s seven and goes to bed at 730. But


you know, he hears us and is like, oh, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, you know, both kids would crawl back inside if they could they’re obsessed with mommy. And so, you know, he hears us like we have to basically know like, what part of the carpet to step on that doesn’t make a creak noise to get downstairs without even with his door close him hearing us like in the hallway. And he just gets excited to wake up comes down, you know, which is fine. Like I said he goes to bed early. But it’s just kind of funny because they hear these tiny little noises. Meanwhile, like, you know, nine o’clock at night when we’re going to bed I could be banging around open in the closet looking for sheets or something and you know, he’s passed out. So definitely balancing that. You want to look at your body clock, right? When are they feeding? And is there an alignment with


the right amount of feedings, right like, are you getting the required 24 to 32 ounces in a given 24 hour period. Right? That’s what your child needs. So it’s making sure that we


align with the right food right if a child is waking because they’re hungry, you feed them and put them back to sleep. That’s especially true in kids.


It’s kind of under four, four months of age, right? If they’re just sleeping through the night, but they’re getting up early, but they just need to eat because it’s been, you know, 10 hours, like that makes sense, right? Feed them, put them right back down to sleep, don’t be the mechanism to put them to sleep, but feed them burpham lay down awake and let them settle, right? Somewhere by five months or so that should dissipate, your child should be able to intake 24 to 32 ounces, and have no issue as far as making it through the night until between six and step until six and seven. So if you’re struggling a little bit with, you know, some of these things, and you’ve checked the box off and you’ve assessed everything that’s going on, you know, how do you handle this? Right? Well, when you’re trying to figure out how to handle early wakings, there’s kind of two ways one, you frankly, have to let them go back to sleep, and they have to go back to sleep. And there’s no choice in that. So it is essentially just maybe doing a check in or to and making sure they’re sorted. But they have to fall back to sleep. Some of it’s a little sleep training, right interval based check ins because if they’re getting up as the result of a habit, right, you’ve gone through this whole listing of the podcast and hit them like okay, all this stuff checks the box. They’re just excited to see me it’s a habit, right, you got to break a habit, how do you break a habit teach him it’s unacceptable, right. But do it in a way that you can do that for an eight month old, which is you’re not welcome to get up. And so while it can stink for a day or two, to try to force them back to sleep by really minimal engagement, dark room, staying out of there, and letting them sort of figure out a little bit of the hard way that it’s not quite Time to get up at 5am.


You know, again, that’s going to be the hardest, the hardest part of the balance and transition. The next is really what’s called waking to sleep. So sometimes if you’ve noticed that your child wakes up at exactly the same time every single night 5am 5am 5am. But they’re still visibly exhausted. And before you get to the point where you’re like, Look, we’re going to do a little more sleep training with interval based check ins, you can try something called waking to sleep, which is setting your clock for about 445, which I know stinks but it gets you in there where you basically lightly blow on their face or you know, sort of touch their foot a teeny bit, all you’re really doing is getting them to shift and move without waking up. And what that does is it causes them to reset their sleep cycle so that they go into another cycle. And that will often have them then as the result sleep in longer. It’s called waking to sleep. You can do it for about four days. And then after that is when you will need to let it go and see if their cycle has been reset. So that’s one way you can do it to try to balance it. So really when you go through the checklist, right if you’ve solved all the things, your timings good, your intakes good, your habits are good, your naps are good, your wake windows are good, they’re settling independently, they sleep through the night, they just get up early, it is more likely than not a habit that you have on your hands. And it’s something that you just have to break through a bit of sleep training. Now we always offer support and coaching and sleep consulting right. In supporting parents who are stuck with this I offer 30 minute Ask me anything calls which are wonderful for things like short naps, or early morning wakings you can schedule them on our website with myself or any of my team members. I have over 13 sleep consultants across the US that support families and you know, so we’re here in a timezone we speak English, I have a Spanish speaking consultant, you know, to just help all families in fixing what’s going on and getting you to sleep success. You know, I often talk about sleeping, the foundation for which the house is built. And it totally is an early morning waking sink and nobody wants to get up early. So you know, definitely do your best to kind of check the box. And if you’re stuck with a habit, you may have to do a little bit of sleep training. But now that it’s short lived right couple days, forced them into another cycle for a day or two and they’ll actually that’s really usually all they need. And then they’ll reset on their own because you’ve changed the expectation that habit is broken, you’ve changed the expectation and now they will sleep longer and more consistently. So hopefully this has been an educational podcast for you today. I wanted to talk a lot about early morning wakings because I have a lot of clients and


members of my Facebook community and stuff that like just they struggle with early waking sometimes and again like sometimes it just happens with the timing being off or the you know the adjustments schedules. Sometimes it’s a habit so really just balancing and doing the best that you can knowing that there’s always support out here you can join my facebook group at any time it’s called slumber Made Simple. I always love to have folks out there


and we’re here to help and I hope everybody has the most beautiful day The weather’s going to be amazing here in Philadelphia this weekend and I’m going to enjoy some sun get some stellar sleep and I am happy to schedule a consultation with you if you ever should need me. I hope everyone has a beautiful rest of the day thanks so much for tuning in. Be sure to subscribe leave us a review tell us what you think or shoot me over an email Courtney at tiny transitions calm let me know what you want to hear about. Happy to take new topics for the podcast always love some different things to share. Thanks so much. Bye




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 sleep or 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.