Early Rising is one of the most frustrating parts of Baby and Toddler Sleeping Issues. You have put great effort into helping your child learn sleep skills and even though they are generally sleeping through the night, the early rising is slowly killing you. (I'm being just a little dramatic)
Early Rising is when the baby or toddler wakes and can't get back to sleep well before you are ready to wake up and start your day. More technically, it's likely before 6am. The body's sleep cycles are different in those early hours and it's harder to get back to sleep anyway.
Here are the things that typically cause Early Rising and once you have identified the cause, you can work on the solution.
1. Lack of day sleep. Your child's body has a period of time it can stay awake and when she runs out of energy, she has a sleep window. If she is not falling asleep by the end of the sleep window, her body produces a hormone called cortisol. This is the stress hormone. The fight or flight hormone reaction. It gives you an adrenaline like burst of energy. It's hard to go to sleep for her nap with that pumping through her system and it stays in your system for a while, messing with naps and night sleep. Often causing early rising.
2. Too late bedtime. Similar to Lack of day sleep, missing your bedtime sleep window also causes a rush of cortisol and its residual affect can cause early rising.
3. Lack of sleep skills from going to bed too drowsy at bedtime. If you used a sleep crutch at bedtime, like rocking or nursing or holding to sleep, your baby didn't get the practice relaxing their body falling asleep. She will wake between sleep cycles, that's normal but she will need you to help her fall back to sleep, especially when falling back to sleep is the hardest in the early morning hours.
4. Lack of skills from being put to bed asleep. If you hold or rock or nurse your baby to sleep, they are in a different place when she wakes up between sleep cycles and needs you to help her fall back to sleep. Again, she has insufficient sleep skills. She may get more cortisol in the night from waking and needing help and by the early morning hours, just can't get back to sleep.
5. Tummy discomfort from food issues. If your baby had a food sensitivity or is having a negative digestive reaction to a new food, that can often manifest in the early hours when sleep is more difficult. Have you ever woken from a bad headache or a tummy ache? It's in the early hours that it wakes you over and over again. At least you can mostly go back to sleep. And as an adult, you likely have pretty good sleep skills. It's a rough time.
6. Developmental milestones like crawling and walking. These are major skills that require brain and muscle changes. When your baby is working on a new skill, they want to practice this new skill when they wake up between sleep cycles. It's a very exciting time. The sooner she masters the skill, the sooner her sleep can get back on track.
Tracy Spackman is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach.
Call her if you need sleep help.