This is one of the most common challenges I get asked about and it’s not surprising why! Let’s face it, early mornings are not much fun, unless you are getting up to go on holiday that is!

In my eyes, anything before 6 am is classed as an early waking. Hand up who has one of those!?

So, in this blog I will be talking about why we see these early morning waking’s and what you can do about them!


A big mis-conception in the world of sleep is that keeping a little one up later means they will sleep longer. Early rising usually results from overtiredness. It sounds counterproductive doesn’t it but if your little one is overtired when they go to bed then they will have higher levels of cortisol ( the day time hormone) in their system. This hormone begins to rise to get us ready for the day from around 4 am so, if the levels of cortisol are already heightened from being overtired at bedtime then this will just add to the levels and they are more likely to be wide awake earlier. So putting your baby to bed when they are less tired gives them more chance of sleeping longer! This goes against what you might expect but, honestly, works 90% of the time – give it a try and see!

Day time sleep

As well as making sure your little one is going to bed at the right time for their sleep needs they also need to be having enough day time sleep. A lack of daytime sleep can have a huge impact on what time they wake up in the morning. So, do not be tempted to restrict their day time sleep in the hope it will help with early wake ups, it won’t! An overtired baby will not only wake more but wake earlier.


This applies to babies who are on milk and only just started on solids. Once the night time feeds have dropped down (only when developmentally ready to do so) some babies wake earlier due to hunger. If they have previously been sleeping through but are now waking early have a think about calories- are they getting enough during the day? Can you increase the calories anywhere at all? Once a baby is fully established on solids they are far less likely to wake because of hunger.

Nap Transitions

Often when a baby is going through or has just dropped a nap there may be some early waking’s. This will largely be down to overtiredness so an early bedtime will help just while your little one get’s used to their new schedule. If your baby is still napping several times a day then it could be the opposite and that they need to drop a nap- the late afternoon nap drops around 8 months.

Teething and Illness

Early waking is really normal when little one’s are teething or are ill. One reason could be overtiredness ( yes, again!) because night time sleep may be disrupted. Another reason could be that tur sleep is lighter during the early hours of the morning so any discomfort is going to disturb them. Teething and illness generally doesn’t cause long term early waking issues and usually fixes itself. Remember though- try not to overcompensate and get into new habits if they wake early such as bringing them into your bed or starting the day, they will soon become to expect this if it continues! Try and comfort and reassure as much as you can without creating new habits and stick to your routine as closely as possible.

Sleep environment

The sleep environment can have a huge impact on early morning wake ups! Lighter mornings are one of the most common causes, especially when you have an alert toddler on your hands who can’t wait to start their day! Blackout blinds can help block out the light and keep your little one sleeping in until wake up time. For older toddlers and children sleep wake clocks are a great incentive to keep them in their bed until wake up time too. This can be used alongside a sleep chart to incentivise them to stay in bed until a set wake up time.

Early Waking Associations and habit

If your little one know that they will get milk or cuddles in your bed or allowed to watch TV in bed then they are much more likely to wake early for that reason. This is then far more likely to become a habit- their body clock will begin to wake them at the same time every morning. If it’s not a problem then it’s not a problem BUT if it is and you are all becoming tired because of these early waking’s then these associations will need to stop. Early waking is often the last part of the puzzle- the longer it goes on the longer it will take to fix but that’s not to say it’s not do-able.

Be consistent – This, as with all areas of parenting is absolute key. If you give in just once they may well expect it and push and push until they get it. Treat any waking before 6am as a night waking and give the same response as you would at night, even if there is only 10 minutes to wake up time!


I do hope this has helped, have a think about why your little one may be waking early and see if you can change anything in your routine or sleep environment. As I mentioned, early waking is often the last piece of the puzzle to solve. If you would like some support to overcome early wake up's then please do let me know.

If you have any questions or are struggling with your little one’s sleep or behaviour then please do get in contact with me. I offer a free discovery call where we can discuss ways in which I can help you.



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