The dreaded 5am wake up…not again you sigh. When is this going to stop and how do I make it stop? HELP ME!
Early waking in children is more common than you think and this week’s blog I will be talking about the reasons why your child may be ready for the day at 5am even if you are not.. and what you can do to change them to a later more acceptable time…
There are a few reasons why this may be happening and it could be a tricky one to work out. Here is a list of the possible reasons...
The levels of melatonin (Sleep Hormone) in your child’s body decreases throughout the night and from 4am onwards the lighter stage of sleep is nigh. I always say anything before 6am is night time and should be treated so. Awake after 6am and you are winning!
So how do we work it out?
Let’s take a closer look at the points above.
Was your baby super tired when he went to bed last night? How could this be possible? Perhaps his naps he had were not quite at the optimum time for his age and stage of development, or that lunch time nap was only 30 minutes. Because of these short naps sleep debt will be accumulated and therefore cause overtiredness and boom…5 am wake up.
Of course he may not have seemed tired he they went to bed last night, he may have seemed full of beans and in fact put on a little energetic performance and seemed like he were auditioning for the circus. I know this is what my eldest Leo does, he thinks he is some sort of racing car as soon as he gets out the bath..!
What is actually happening here is the sleep debt causing levels of cortisol to rise. This hormone is like an adrenaline, a shot of red bull, that pumps around the body when children are overtired and displays it’s-self in a hyper child and in no way seems tired.
It’s worth keeping an eye on awake windows and checking the awake window from last nap of day till bed time. Here is a guide…
Of course this seems obvious but if your child went to sleep easily last night you may not have thought he was under tired at all. However if he had too much sleep the previous day it all adds up and boom...5 am and it’s party time...again! You may need to push bedtime forward a little bit or indeed tweak your child’s naps in the day. Be careful adjusting any tweaks and do so in 15 minute increments every 3 days so not to confuse your child’s circadian rhythm too much.
3. NAP 1 WAS TOO EARLY
Sounds strange right and of course if your child is waking early surely their first nap of the day is gong to have to be earlier or they will be overtired... BUT...
If your child has a nap soon after waking at 5am and they sleep a long time at nap 1 their body gets used to this and tells itself that it is OK to wake early because I know I am going to get a long nap very soon. Especially if this is a reoccurring event their circadian rhythm will be set to this and this needs to be changed by you.
Instead of having a full nap try offering a little “rescue” nap of about 10 minutes and no more around 7/7.30am. This works best with 10 month olds and under. This will get you on track for their first nap to be at 9.30am and sets you up for the rest of the day and also you will be resetting their circadian rhythm to not have that long early morning nap!
If your child is older or the rescue nap won’t work you may need to stretch the awake windows ever so slightly over a period of time until you get to more appropriate nap times.
4. TEMPERATURE CHANGE
Around 4 am your child’s body temp tends to drop slightly in preparation for waking. Check the swaddle, gro bag or duvet is correctly fitted and tucked in where appropriate. Check he is dressed appropriately for sleep. Cotton breathable clothing only, no hats, gloves or even socks. Optimum room temperature is 18-20.c
During the spring and summer months light creeping in through the curtains can be a cause of early waking’s. Even a street light outside will cause a wake up or light from the hall way. When his eyes open and sees even a glimmer of light it is something to focus on.
It reduces the levels of melatonin in the body and once those eyes open they will be focusing on that strip of light popping through because it looks interesting. Also artificial light from a night light or light from under the door will also impact on levels of cortisol.
Always use a RED if you wish to have a night light in your child’s room. This does not affect the melatonin levels at all. Put black out blinds up and have you ever thought of rolling up a blanket or sheet and resting it on top of the curtain rail to stop that strip of light entering..? Try it and see how much light it really can block out.
Many children have their last meal around 4.30/5pm especially those who attend nursery as many offer dinner around 4.30pm. This would make breakfast a long way away for them to hang on till. You may find it helps by offering them a wholemeal bagel or toast with a nut butter as a snack pre bedtime that will keep hunger at bay.
Perhaps it’s time to drop the mid-day bottle and swap for a solid dairy snack and then this can push dinner time a little later and this will in turn have a positive knock on effect to the hunger hormones being released in the early hours.
Ensure your child is getting enough meat protein during the day and before 10 months of age offer at lunch time as their little tummy’s are not quite ready to digest meat proteins at night time and they can also cause waking’s.
Offer lots of leafy green vegetables and brown carbohydrates at dinner time. The slow release of the carbs will help keep hunger at bay. If your baby is still having night feeds it may be they have not fed for 4 hours or longer so this could be genuine hunger. Ensure bedroom is kept dark, little interaction and pop down right after feed.
Of course if this has been happening for a while now your child’s circadian rhythm will be set for waking at 5am for the day! Try implementing that rescues nap if 10 months and under and having a shorter morning nap to set the circadian rhythm. And as with any habit they take consistency and practice to be created so you will need to be extremely consistent and preserver with implementing changes to change the habit.
For the older toddlers try using a trainer clock such as ZaZu Sheep! This is my favorite because unlike the Gro Company trainer clock, that has a blue light face and disrupts the levels of melatonin, ZaZu has a red face. And remember red light does not interfere with the levels of melatonin.
Here is a link.
Teething...gahhh, it gets the blame for a lot of waking’s and quite rightly so, however, if these early wakes are happening more than 3 -4 mornings in a row usually the teething pain has subsided by now.
At night blood pressure is a lot lower so any pain tends be less than day time. If your child is not showing pain discomfort during the day it is unlikely to be bothering them at night so much. Do offer pain relief, check gums before bedtime for those little white nubs.
If your child is having a day time nap ensure they are up by 3pm and bedtime no later than 7pm. This of course has to be age and stage of development appropriate. If your child is down to 2 naps a day and having a lunch nap of only 30 minutes and is awake by 2pm then they will need to go to bed at 6pm.
Now once you have managed to address the possible causes and you are consistent and still no results you may need to implement a comforting method to help your child back to sleep independently of you for them to understand it’s not breakfast time just yet and to help set their circadian rhythm.
These methods are very individual to each family situation and child’s temperament. If you would like guidance with this do drop me a message and we can talk about it.
So with that said, you can now try a little trouble shooting with your early morning rises and for more help and advice do get in touch and we can work together to restore sleep in your home!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend who may be experiencing the early morning rising just as much as you!
Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Boom! Here we go again…another hurdle in the world of sleep. Just as you may have felt your nights were getting on track suddenly they are being disturbed again and you may be wondering “what now”?
Well, this is possibly the 18 month sleep regression. Or as we all know I like to call a “progression” because your baby is maturing, not regressing...even though you may feel the sleep is somewhat..!
So here today I explain the WHEN, WHY and the HOW to navigate through your way through this sleep hurdle with hopefully not much disturbance for all the family.
So the WHEN,
This sleep “progression” is typically around 18 months but can be a little earlier or later. Most commonly around 18 months because it co – insides with a transition of 2 naps down to 1 which happens around this time.
During this delicate time your toddler will be coming out of the baby zone and entering into toddler hood and toddler sleep comes with it as a package!
Your child's physical and cognitive development is maturing and they are learning yet more skills, wanting to explore more and test us more for sure! They are figuring out limits and testing the boundaries. Your toddler may be in a big bed with no sides (my advice it to keep them in their cot for as long and close to 3 years of age as possible due to the lack of impulse control they have before 3 years)
That impulse control couples with the “mummy, can I have one more kiss, I neeeed some more milk, maybe I can climb out of my crib, oooh, maybe I can go sleep in mummy’s bed…”
These are the boundaries your child maybe testing. Sound familiar to you?
They enter a second bout of separation anxiety (the first being around 9 months when object permanence is realised) but this separation anxiety may be a little more momentous in the way they have a little more fear and curiosity. For example they may see you leave the room but then they may wonder, what if Mummy does not come back, what it I cry and she does not hear me, I can hear a dog bark, is it near me, what is that shadow over there…?
Naturally children and adults will wake 3-6 times a night when shifting from one sleep cycle to another, falling back to sleep independently is the art and skill we need to teach our children and if they have not learnt this skill they may struggle more at these waking’s, need our assistance and of course with this sleep “progression” their sleep may be more disturbed with their new thoughts going on in their maturing mind and need more comforting.
Your toddlers language skills are not fully developed yet and they can not always express themselves so we may be wondering what on earth they are trying to convey. Especially in the night when it is dark and we are all tired and a little bit dazed from perhaps being up already 5 times... You may wonder are they hungry, perhaps I should offer milk, do they need a nappy change or perhaps they are cold/hot, no it must be teething... yes, a feed will help get them back to sleep…
I am sure you have come up with a number of endless possibilities your toddler is waking for.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Of course if you are moving house or a new sibling is arriving soon, talk to your toddler about this, use books to help, perhaps a visit to the library to see what book they have on the topics. If moving try have your toddlers room marked as a priority, have the same bed, same bedding, same pictures and teddy around. Mimic the old familiar sleep space. Park the Pinterest decor you had…just for a few months anyway! It will come!
2. Be Consistent. I talk about consistency ALL THE TIME, and certainly those of you who have worked closely with me know I bang on about this a lot, but it is vital. Being consistent for your toddler at this time will help with their anxiety and expectations. If you give in to the “one more story, one more drink” demands intermittently they will cotton on to this FAST. And know they can get what they want if they go on and on enough..! Giving into your child is effectively rewarding them and at this young tender age they see it as a win.
2. To help with consistency you may like to use a picture time chart, this helps your toddler know what comes next. You can make it with them, cut out a pictures form magazines, a family eating dinner, a bath, a story, a cup of milk… they could even get the picture to pop in a “sleep box” at each “event” to sleep with your toddle on their shelf.
3. ROUTINE. Again this co insides with consistency and boundaries. Your toddler’s circadian rhythm is set to wake, eat and sleep at the same times every day. Don’t mess with that. You will rock the boat and then you have an over tired or even under tired toddler on your hand.
4. Your toddler is growing up mentally and physically, so treat them this way. Start to give them a little option or 2 , what top would you like to wear today, this blue one or this green one, what story shall we read first, the Gruffalo or Mog. Of course this goes within the boundaries and age appropriate. Things they can control will help the situation and helps in them feeling important and independent.
If you find your toddler is taking time to fall asleep and is happy in their sleep space, then leave them to it. Eventually they will fall asleep and grow out of this awake time. Of course if they are upset and you feel they need some assistance in some way of course lovingly go to your toddler and respond appropriately. Remember to be consistent in the approaches.
You may need to do frequent check ins, or sit in the room until your toddler falls asleep. But again I say it…be consistent at every wake up!
If your toddler is starting to kick up a stink and you are not sure how to respond do take this opportunity to reach out to me and I can help and offer advice and guide you through this period.
It is very normal to experience this sleep “progression” so hang in there as it may take a week or so to pass. Your anxious toddler may take some more persuading and comforting and that is perfectly normal and expected. Support them through this time.
Of course if you would like any more help and advice on this sleep “progression” don’t hesitate to get in touch, I am here to help you make this shift as easy as possible for you and your family.
Don’t forget to share this with a friend you know who may find this helpful also.
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Or as I like to call a regression, a “progression”… due to the fact your baby is reaching milestones and not going backwards!
In this blog I will explain what exactly this 8 month “progression” is, the signs and how to deal with it.
So let’s get into it..!
WHAT IS THE 8 MONTH SLEEP “REGRESSION”?
Around 8-10 months your baby will be going through a major and massive neurological and physiological development change
Your baby is now beginning to be more mobile, learning to crawl, stand possibly walk and finding their own voice and practicing it more! This “progression” is your baby’s brains way of catching up with the day’s activities and processing it all. The result of this milestone is loss of sleep for all the family…
Around this time your baby will also be dropping from 3 naps down to 2 and this is a big developmental leap for them. They will be showing signs they are ready to drop this nap (see nap transitions blog for more on this )nap-transitions.html
Teething will be continuing and separation anxiety may also be starting to show. Your baby will be more aware of their surroundings, who is in the room, when you walk out the room, they may even cry a little when you walk out of the room.
They have now started to develop the skill of OBJECT PERMANCE, which is when they know something still exists when they cannot see, hear, smell or touch it.
A great game to play often to help them feel confident and comfortable in the room without you there is to play peek–boo, hide behind your hands then perhaps the sofa, then the room…!
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Typically around 4 – 14 days. It may occur anywhere in the age range of 8 – 10 months. If your baby has mastered the art of self-settling and as long as you do not introduce any new negative sleep habits you should ride through this regression with ease.
You will see a shift in your little ones sleeping patterns such as
HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS “PROGRESSION”…
A sleep association will develop if it is mimicked at every sleep opportunity. If your baby has learned the skill and art of self-settling to sleep it is important not to re-introduce any previous sleep associations or start any new ones that may require your assistance such as feed or rock to sleep. Of course you can absolutely go to your baby, offer them the love, cuddles and support they need and you want to give.
So to conclude, if you have all worked hard on sleep shaping and got to your sleep goals, know that is does work and can still work, know that it is kind to teach your child to learn the skill of falling asleep independently. Don’t let a “progression” undo all that hard work you put in!
Being awake all night is not good for anyone.
Stick to your routine, encourage independent sleep skills and all will be OK!
If you find you have been dealing with this for longer than you feel is “normal” then do drop me a message and we can have a chat about how to get back on track!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend who has a baby or may be going through this transition. It may just shed some light on the matter..!
Sleep well happy families,
Here is your Ultimate Guide To Daylight Savings,
The Winter Issue
In this week’s blog I explain how you can navigate your way through the clock change going back 1 hour. I suggest 3 different options for you with detailed schedules below.
The dark nights are drawing in closer, the colder mornings are upon us and Jack Frost is waiting in the wings to frost up our windows and paths...
But what does all this mean for your Little Ones’ daily routine and morning wake ups? Does this mean your 5am wake up will now be 4am? Does this mean they will be ready for bed at 5pm instead of 7pm…? There goes your evenings with more wake ups and “lazy” weekend mornings I hear you say…
I say, “NOPE, Not at all”!
Falling back into winter can actually be a positive and give you one more extra hour on the clock to work on teaching your baby independent sleep skills and they get more time to “study and learn” these new skills! It’s all going to be fine…you will see. And it is EASY!
There are some adjustments you can do in preparation of the new Winter Time. Below I explain 3 different options you may like depending on what you feel suits your child best.
Read on to find out how this can work for you and see some example schedules…
Remember, our bodies are regulated by 3 things...
So, if we alter the timings of these 3 activities during the day, slowly your baby should fall into the new time change quite easily and without too much bother. It can take 1 – 2 weeks for your child to fully adjust to the new time so do be patient and be consistent. Every. Single. Day. And of course it does help if your child has the super skill of settling themselves and falling asleep independently of you.
Remember exposure to light be it natural or artificial will aid your child’s circadian rhythm to adjust so get outside for a walk, even a walk around the block will help , and if it is raining, adorn those welly’s and go splash in the muddy puddles…last time I check puddles were a lot of fun!
Below are some sample schedules to help guide you and your family into the new clock change.
Essentially you will be moving your child’s schedule 15 minutes later every 2 days, including feeds and solids. This will give time for your child’s body to readjust slowly without sending their circadian rhythm into shock!
Do remember that if your child is under 18 weeks your days may already be very unpredictable and you may not have a schedule in place. Therefor you just need to maintain your baby’s awake windows appropriate to their age. If you are not sure what their awake windows are, do see my blog on appropriate awake windows for different age groups. https://www.rachaelwilsonsleepconsultant.com/blog/how-much-sleep
Now, here’s the good bit…
Going Back 1 hour BEFORE time change
Start this 1 week BEFORE the clocks change.
Of course not all of us have the “luxury” to be able to wake our child up later because they are already an early riser. In this instance it may be more beneficial for you to adjust their schedule AFTER the clocks have changed. See example schedule below.
GOING BACK 1 HOUR (After time change) 7-7 routine
Another option to navigate through this is to extend your child’s awake windows by 5 – 15 minutes the weekend of the clock change. Now this has to be treated with caution as you do not want to send your child into a frenzy of overtiredness, this just merely extends their circadian rhythm a little longer to get to the end of the day and adjust before the new time actually arrive.
Then Monday morning you are back on track with your usual timings.
Example schedule below for a baby with a 2.5 hour awake window on 2 naps a day
By extending the awake window gradually this will help your baby fall back into the new time on Sunday when it arrives.
REMEMBER…This is just guide and if your child shows sleepy signs you must pop them down to sleep. If you do not then you will risk running into overtired territory and then you will have a new ball game to play with!
Don’t forget to share this with a friend you know out there who is wondering how on earth she is going to cope with the clock change and potentially 4am wake ups….!
If you feel you would like some more guidance on this adjustment do get in touch, drop me an email and I can help guide you through this!
Take care guys, and sleep well...