Is your child or toddler waking up too early? A child who hasn’t gotten enough sleep, can become easily irritable, are more prone to tantrums, and may have you at your wits end by lunchtime. Common toddler sleep problems explained. Plus, how to use Daily Routine Cards for better sleep, nap times and improved behavior.
Why your child or toddler is waking up too early and how sleep issues such as the 18 month sleep regression and 20 month sleep regression affect sleep patterns. What to do when your toddler wakes up too early and won’t go back to sleep. Tips for dealing with a sleep regression at 18 months if you’re struggling.
Why Is My Toddler Waking Up Too Early???
Finally, you’d found the perfect sleep schedule and they were snoozing peacefully until a time that fit with your family… but abruptly, they’ve started rising earlier, and earlier.
This can wreak havoc on the rest of the day when your child isn’t fully rested, and starts a vicious cycle of sleep problems unless you understand what’s causing them to wake up too early and how to fix the issue.
If your toddler is waking up too early, there are several reasons why this can be happening and solutions to get them back on track to sleeping until their regular rise and shine time.
Downloadable Routine Tracker – A Starting Place to Create a Better Routine & Sleep Habits
1. Going to Bed Too Early or Too Late Makes Kids Wake Up Too Early
When a toddler isn’t getting enough sleep, and waking up too early, it might be time to reevaluate bedtime.
Try putting him to sleep earlier. As when babies are put to sleep too late, it can make them wake earlier than normal in the morning, the same still holds true for toddlers.
- You may be putting your child to sleep too early. Try pushing their bedtime back, but be sure to also adjust nap time. Aim for five (5) hours between waking up from nap time and heading to bed so they’re tired enough to fall asleep after you’ve run through your bedtime routine.
- If you need to push bedtime a little earlier, be sure to adjust naps a little earlier too so the timing lines up.
- On the flip side, if you’re putting your child to bed too late when they’re already overtired, this can cause them to turn into an early riser.
Check out this sleep chart to see how many hours of sleep your child needs (between nap and bedtime) so you can adjust your sleep schedule to get back on track.
2. Waking Up Too Early Because Of Hunger
If your toddler is getting up early, it might be because they’re hungry. If you eat dinner early, and your child is really active after dinner and before bedtime, they may burning off food stores and waking early because they’re hungry.
For example, if you have dinner at 5:30pm, then they play outside or go do an activity, before finally crawling into bed at 8pm, expecting them to sleep through the night (12-13) hours isn’t reasonable. That would be 14.5-15 hours from their last meal which even for an adult, is a long time.
- Push dinnertime a little later so your child is going to bed with a full stomach.
- Offer a fiberous snack before bedtime such as peanut butter & apples, a banana or granola bar to hold them over.
- Choose activities before bedtime that are low key and not as intense at torching calories and creating hungry tummies so early in the morning.
- Don’t eat breakfast right away in the morning if they’re waking early. This creates the habit of filling up early in the morning and their internal alarm clocks will adjust to their new breakfast time. You don’t want them rising before the sun, so don’t offer them a meal at this time either.
3. Too Much Stimulation Before Bedtime Makes Kids Wake Up Early
If you shake a can of soda, you can’t expect it to go back to normal within a couple minutes. It takes time to calm down so and rebalance itself after all the excitement.
The same is true with a toddler. The more riled up and active your child is leading into bedtime, the harder it will be for them to calm down and settle into a peaceful sleep.
Here are 10 Screen-Free Alternatives before bedtime to help keep the stimulation levels low and calm.
If your child needs activity before bedtime, try to squeeze this in before dinner and wind down with a warm bath and quiet activities instead.
4. Your Toddler is Waking Up in the Middle of a Sleep Cycle
The lightest part of every person’s sleep cycle is between 4am and 6am – toddlers, children and adults.
This doesn’t mean that sleep is over at this point, it just means that during this time, it’s easy to get jostled from sleep and even more difficult to fall back into it since it’s so light.
If your child is waking up at 4:30 or 5am, don’t turn on the lights and treat this like a typical morning.
Instead, act as if this early morning wake-up is the middle of the night, and tuck them back into bed, keeping the lights off and don’t turn any stimulation on.
5. It’s the 18 Month Sleep Regression (aka Toddler Sleep Regression)
- At 18 months old, your toddler is starting to go through another round of development that can disrupt sleep quite a bit – also know as the 18 month sleep regression.
- He may begin waking quite frequently at night or staying awake for long periods in the middle of the night.
- Naps can be problematic too, such as short 30-45 minute naps or he wants to take his nap too late in the day.
Your toddler is starting throw tantrums, and being defiant about sleep and asserting himself.
The 18 Month Sleep Regression in a nut shell:
Toddlers begin to cut their canines around 18 months and this affects sleep Toddlers at 1 1/2 years are gaining a sense of independence and learning to assert themselves. Pushing boundaries and resisting – including going to bed or napping – is part of this phase of mental development.
At this age, your child is also learning about defiance by reacting to the daily routine and your requests oppositional. This is where setting clear boundaries and limits will nip stubborn behavior about naps & bedtime.
Read more about the 18 month sleep regression (which sometimes is also called the 20 month sleep regression).
When Your Child is Waking Up Too Early…
Be consistent with your bedtime and morning routines so your children are consistent with their sleep cycles as well. Just because your child is waking up too early doesn’t mean this will last forever.
Have patience, try these sleep solutions and you’ll be able to get back on track soon.
If routine is a trouble spot, Mastering Sleep & Schedules has 40+ daily routines to help you whether you want to follow a clock or not, how to modify your routine, what to do when it’s time to drop a nap, and dealing with disruptions.
Need a little extra help starting or adjusting your daily routine? Here’s a FREE Course that will help you take control & bring more peace to your home.
More Sleep Tips & Help for Kids Who Are Waking Up Too Early
- Toddler Sleep Regressions: What You Need to Know About Your Two Year Old’s Sleep
- How to Establish a Peaceful Bedtime Routine for Your Baby
- How to Survive the 18 Month Sleep Regression & 2 Year Sleep Regressions Without Going Crazy
- Comprehensive Sleep Charts & Sleep Guidelines for Infants Through Adolescents
- The Benefits of Having a Daily Routine
- Create an Awesome Routine for Better Sleep Habits
- 11 Helpful Charts for Kids: Chores, Reward & Daily Routines to Help Kids Thrive
- 6 Tips to Get Your Child Out of Bed in the Morning Without a Fight
- Sleep Strategies for a Good Night’s Sleep & Daily Routines for Kids
- Create a Routine: 6 Sample Toddler Schedules from Real Moms
Nicole | The Professional Mom Project says
We had this problem with our son. Staying consistent with bedtime routines is so important! Thanks for the tips
Having a bedtime routine is so important, glad you liked all the tips!
We saw that our daughter had a 45 minute fuss, and if we left her alone she really would go back to sleep, and sleep for hours. Now I know why! Thank you.
I am losing my mind. My toddler (2.5 years old) has started waking up at 4:00 A.M. and climbs out of his crib. Worst yet he has the energy of a three ring circus. He is going too bed at 8:00. We tried 9:00 and he still woke up at 4:00. It’s been a week of this, and it’s killing my wife and me. Tonight, I am trying two things. Putting the mattress on the floor of the crib and giving him a snack before bed (like a banana). The mattress being lowered to the floor will give us an extra 6 inches to keep him from swinging his leg over the crib.,
My daughter all of sudden has been getting up super early, so I think it may be because she’s hungry. I like your tip of moving dinner time to a later time, so I think we will try that.