Kids waking up too early – Teaching your children to sleep later

When your kids are waking too early, it can make them tired, cranky and just not very happy kids.  I put our kids to bed early, at 7:00 and I want them to sleep the full 12 hour, so I teach them to naturally sleep in a little later. 

how to teach kids to sleep later (naturally)
Sleep is VERY important, so teaching our kids great sleep/wake patterns will benefit your child greatly.  (enough sleep = healthier child… better ability to stay focused, happier children… there are so many benefits to getting enough sleep).

 

We have four kids and let me tell you, our kids were waking up EARLY!   (Here they are… You can learn more about them here
yourmodernfamily

I had to do something when our older kids were waking up at 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning (still dark outside)- waking up their siblings and not getting their 10-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (our kids are still at the age where the need this much sleep at night because they are not napping anymore, except for our baby).   If you are wondering how much sleep your child needs, take a look at this chart:
(image source found here) Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 11.03.08 PM

 

To help our kids learn good sleep habits, we came up with this idea and I have shared it with friends and family and they do it, too. It works!  We finally figured out a way to keep our kids in bed longer (giving them the chance to get enough sleep for their bodies and minds)

If you find your kids waking up too early – here is how to help your kids learn to stay in bed a little longer, to naturally train their bodies to get the rest that they need.  It is not healthy for your children to wake up before getting an adequate number of hours of sleep.

This little trick has naturally set our children’s internal clocks to a time that is more suiting to their schedule (with preschool and grade school).  It allows their bodies to sleep until it is time to wake up (when the sun is up and our family is ready to wake up, at 7:00 (they go to bed at 7:00, to get a full 12 hours of sleep)~ this is just the time that works for OUR family.)

As with anything, you need to remember that you have to TEACH your kids this new rule.   You can not expect them to sleep until 7:00 tomorrow, just because you started this today. Give it a week or two and you will have them sleeping later.

MOST IMPORTANT: Be consistent!  Consistency is the key to anything, but this will not work if you are ‘wishy-washy’ with this rule.  You have to remain consistent.
HOW IT WORKS:
First, determine a bedtime. Our kids go to bed between 7:00 pm. and 8:00 pm.  (Again, they aren’t napping, so they are VERY ready for bed by this time!) 
Now determine a wake-up time. I like our kids to get 12 hours of sleep, so the wake-up time is 7:00 am.

Second: Practice that number with your kids. If you want them to get up at 7:00, show them the number 7. Show it to them on paper. Show it to them on their clock. Show it to them in books. Have them practice writing it.
Kids waking too early

HOW TO DO THIS:
What you need:

  • A digital clock
  • A piece of paper (I use index cards. You can use anything!)
  • Tape
  • Marker or crayon

WRITE JUST THE HOUR of the time you want the kids to come out of bed on your piece of paper.  Write it big (a little bigger than the number on the clock).
6:00?  Write 6
7:00? Write 7.  (This is our ‘allowed out of bed’ time)
8:00? Write 8.

Now tape that paper over the MINUTES on your digital clock so that all that you are left seeing is the hour and the paper.

Here is what it looks like (sorry that my time was 4:00 when I took it )
kids getting up too early

Show your kids when the number on the clock (the hour) matches the number on their paper, they can come out of bed.

Here is a close-up: Kids getting up too early

I do not let our kids get out of bed before 7:00, for safety reasons. I don’t want them in their rooms playing when I do not know about it. I want them in their beds. (I made this rule after I had read this heart-breaking story, last year, about the little girl that died when her dresser fell on top of her while her parents were asleep in their room- it was one of those VERY HEAVY dresser/changing tables that everyone has.   Her mom didn’t realize it until she (the mom) woke up for the day.   Her story has opened my eyes to the fact that dangers lurk where you don’t expect them, even with furniture that you would NEVER expect to fall over… same with toys…. you just never know which ones have hidden dangers, even if you don’t expect it).  For that reason, I don’t want our kids awake without me knowing, so they stay in bed until 7:00…

OK- back to the post:

You might set a rule that they can read, but I don’t do this anymore (I did at one point) because I caught them reading at 6:00 am! This was an hour before wake-up time. Now that they just have to lay in bed, they will just fall back asleep until it is time to get up.  This is what I wanted, because I wanted them to have their full 12 hours of sleep per night.

I think that our children have internal alarms because when I check on them if I am up at 6:00 am, if I am up, they will still be asleep. When the clock turns to 7, they come rushing into our room with a “Good morning, Mom!”

Oh- I should remind you that I didn’t start this until our kids were almost three years old and could understand it.

Kids waking up too early
HOW TO TEACH THEM:
 This part is important…
When they come out of their room the first few days early (and they will), just take them back to bed and say “You can come out at 7:00, when the number on the clock matches. Are they the same now? No? Ok- go back to bed.” (put them back into bed).  Now what you will want to do is make sure that when it DOES turn seven, you go in and say “Ok! Its time to come out now! Its 7:00!! Great job!” Do this for over a week, until they get it.
** We have a video monitor in our younger children’s rooms, so we can monitor them easily from our room.  

TIP 1: If you let them come out early one day, expect to let them come out early every day. You have to start on what you wish to go by, so stick to it.

TIP 2:  For nap time, I would change their clock so that when it was time to get up (at 3:00), their clock said 7:00.  So if I put the kids down at 1:00, I would make their clock say 5:00, and when they woke up at 3:00, it would say 7:00.  This is a pain, but it is easier for them to grasp at the beginning that they come out at 7:00 all of the time (morning & nap time).  They will understand it much faster than giving them two numbers to learn/understand.

Tip 3: don’t expect miracles.  If your child has been getting up at 5, don’t expect him/her to sleep until 7.  You have to slowly do this.  I would change the clock for this, too, so that at the real 5:30 (first few days) their clock would say 7 (or your goal hour).  I would move it every few days over a few weeks until they were really waking up at 7:00.  (Just my two cents)

Another completely different idea that a friend on Facebook gave me is to have your lamp set to a timer (like the kind that you get when you are going on vacation) and have it turn on at a certain time (example: 7:00 am).  When the light goes on, they can get out of bed.

Another idea: you could try an alarm clock like this one:  (The light is red when they need to stay in bed and green when they can come out)
TEACH KIDS TO WAKE UP LATER

 

Good luck!
PS- we also  & it helps them sleep later.
I liked this post!

Here are a few more posts that you might find helpful:
Why our kids are in bed by 7:00.

in bed by 7:00

 

 

If your 2 or 3 year old is still waking up at night, try reading my post here:
My 2 year old is still waking up at night – advice from a Pediatrician   (or my 3 year old is waking)

my 2 year old is waking up at night

 

W hen your child gets out of bed night after night, this can be helpful to keep them in their bed…

stay-in-their-own-bed

Now for some great “cuddle time” posts:
“Mommy, will you lay with me?”
a story about how giving your child time now will impact how they give you time in the future.

And a little potty training at night… 

Potty training at night


freebies for YMF readers

Sign up for your free book & free tips to be sent to your inbox!

Comments

  1. says

    Seven is our “out of bed” time as well. I will have to use this method because my (just turned) 3 year old likes to come up around 6 o’clock as well. :)

  2. says

    Great tip! I think it makes them feel more grown up when they have a clock. It really empowers them and they feel like they are part of the system. I love it. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see you at True Aim!

  3. says

    Brilliant! We bought one of those expensive clocks that turns green when it’s time for them to wake up. We like it and it works, but had i seen this tip months ago… :) Thanks!

    • Molly says

      We bought one of those too – I wish I had just thought of the digital clock since it would have been cheaper, but the toddler clock has still been a life saver! We found one that wasn’t too crazy expensive (about $25, a lot of ones I saw were more like $50) and it has a separate nap time timer that has helped a lot.

  4. nisha says

    Ha! My parents should have used that on me! I always woke up at 5 and ran around the house yelling at everyone to wake up… my poor family!

  5. A says

    Our problem is that our kids share rooms, and they keep each other awake. Whomever wakes up first wakes the other and they keep each other awake until time to come out of their rooms. No going back to sleep. And it’s never the same kid. They take turns.

  6. heidi says

    I literally just pi posted on my Facebook about what to do with kids getting up too early…my 3 year old has been getting up at 5:30!! 7 has been my goal and I’ve tried similar approaches but I will have to try your advice. Can’t wait to see if it works! Thanks!

  7. Stephanie says

    12 hours in bed is fantastic! As a PPD and sleep consultant, I will tell you that a likely reason for waking at 5 am is that they are going to bed too late. Put them to bed earlier and they will often sleep later. It’s counter intuitive but works every time!

      • Nancy kh. says

        Hello ! I tried putting my 11 months baby to sleep earlier than 7pm so she could stop setting her alarm at 4:30 every morning but it didnt work. She doesnt sleep that early.
        She was a great sleeper as a baby. At 6 months she started waking up at night a zillion times and woke up at 6:30 am. At 9 months the night sleep got better. At 10 months she started waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 am every morning…full of energy…and is still doing it. I cant take it anymore. This is too early for all of us specially her 4 year old sister who shares her room. What should I do?????

    • Jedda says

      My son is waking at 4am most mornings recently and I cannot keep him awake passed 7pm! I don’t know how to change his sleep patterns, I tried the clock idea but it hasn’t made any difference ! His moods are (at times) unbareable because of how tired he is, especially after a big day at Kindy. Any suggestions?!

      • says

        Wow- I would really try to enforce the 7:00 wake up because if he is in school, he needs 10-12 hours of sleep. What we had to do with our 4 year old (when we started this) was continue to put him back to bed. I kid you not that it took me (get ready) over 100 times to get him to stay in his bed. I put him back (like super nanny says) without talking until he stayed in his bed. At 7:00 I woke up and went into his room and woke him up and told him that he was allowed to wake up now. I did this for a few days until he understood that he had to stay in his bed until 7. I hope this helps. I”m so sorry you guys are going through this b/c an exhausted little one isn’t fun (trust me, I know!!)

      • Molly says

        I know this is probably way too late to matter, but if he’s waking up at 4 AM, then 7 PM is probably way too late for him to be going to bed. My 3 year old normally sleeps from 7:30 PM to 7 AM with a nap in the afternoon. If he doesn’t nap, he goes to bed at least an hour early to make up the sleep. I would try putting your child to bed very early – like 5:00 or 5:30 to make up for some of the lost sleep. Once he’s been getting enough sleep for a while, moving his bed time slowly later should hopefully let him move his wakeup time later too.

    • lourdes says

      Hello my three year old just won’t sleep before 10:00 pm. I’ve tried putting her in bed earlier but she just won’t stay in bed. What can you recomend me to Do?

      • says

        Honestly, I would make sure that she is not napping and then I would just keep her busy throughout the day and put her to bed around 7:30. I would read a book & then put her into bed. When our 3 year old was coming out of his bed, I had to put him back in 150 times (not exaggerating) to keep him in his bed that first night. I just sat in a chair outside of his door – I did’t talk, I just put him back to bed. Day 2 was WAY less. Day 3 he was staying in bed and sound asleep in like 5 minutes. :) He needed sleep, but didn’t want to do it. :)

    • erica says

      my 17 month old twins go to bed at 7pm and often sleep until 730 but i notice on the days the take short naps they wake super early the next morning…so it sounds wise to put them to bed earlier than the norm if they take a short nap?

  8. Exhausted says

    Our 4 year old is getting up at 3:00am, 3:30am, 4:00am etc. and wants to come into our room. Breaking her of this habit is proving to be a torturous endeavor.

  9. kaylee says

    I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 15 month old… so the older one is ready for this but since they share a room how do I keep the 15 month old staying in the room and not waking up the older sibling? or how do I explain to the older one why the younger sister gets to get out of bed earlier? they like to wake up anywhere between 6 and 7:30.
    I love your advice and am totally going to do this :)

  10. says

    Oh my goodness I love this! Thankfully our 3yo is usually pretty good about not getting up before the time we’d like but I may have to start implementing it anyways. I babysit and on the days that the other kids come my son gets up anywhere from 1-2 hours early and it makes for a rough/long day with him.

  11. Cassie says

    How do you make this work with regards to toileting? I want to try this, but am worried that my 3 yr old would wet his bed if he wasnt allowed out (he already does some times)

    • says

      They just go & then go back to bed. I don’t care if they are awake, I just want them in their beds until 7:00. There are six of us here, so if one wakes up, everyone wakes up and I just feel like that’s not fair to the other 5 people. So- if they have to get up, they just get up & go back to their bed afterwards. :)

      • polly plum says

        That’s how I felt when my kids were little-If they woke early but stayed in bed and kept themselves busy, that was fine with me. They just weren’t allowed to wander around alone or wake others. Everyone, even adults has to learnaself -help / comfort skills when we have trouble falling or staying asleep. I’m probably much older than you all, but when my 19 yr olds were babies and preschoolers there was a book by a Dr. somebody-I forget his name, It was called something like ‘How to solve your child’s sleep problems’ andamong my friends it was a life, health and sanity saver!This dr. has a philosophy for teaching kids to go to sleep, stay asleep and get up at the correct times.Good luck to you moms of young kids!Everything seems more difficult when you aren’t getting enough sleep!

  12. Ann says

    A friend told me she sets a lamp timer so the lamp turn on at 7:00am. When the lamp turns on, they can get up. Brilliant!

  13. Danielle Riley says

    Do you have suggestions on how to get your child to go to sleep earlier? DS is almost 4 & we put him in bed at 8pm, but it’s very rare he falls asleep before 9. He still takes a nap at daycare but not on the weekends, so I feel like that really screws him up & he doesn’t need a nap, but the daycare won’t keep him awake. They don’t force the kids to sleep, but they have to give them the chance to nap. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Oh- my only advice is to cut out the nap, which is hard to do with daycare. We have had to stop all of our kids naps by 3 to get them to sleep at night earlier than 9 or 9:30. If any of them nap, they are up so late! (in their beds, but talking, playing, etc…) Sorry- I wish I could help you with that one. :(

  14. chloe may says

    What a great idea! I will be trying this tonight. My 4 year old has always been up at 5am, which I can handle. Lately it’s getting earlier and he is so miserable and tired by the afternoon and starts playing up and not listening. Wish I found this idea sooner. Thanks x

  15. says

    I love this! We have been using an alarm clock for my girls for 6 months now and it has made a world of difference! They were getting up before 6am each and every day and after some adjustment, they don’t get out until 7am. It has really helped out family. We didn’t use everything suggested here, but made it fit our family. But the idea of adjusting the clock to slowly help them sleep later really worked wonderful! Thanks for the suggestions, this is an awesome post!

  16. Clare says

    THANKYOU so much. This is such an excellent idea. AND IT WORKS! I have a 5yr old, 3yr old and a 10month old. For the last 5yrs I have been getting up at 5.30am and have felt so exhausted, 7am starts were just a far off dream which I never thought could happen. And now within one month of trying this all 3 of my little ones are sleeping til 7am!!!! HOORAY. I had to adjust the time on their clock, so the first week they were allowed out of bed at 6am, even though their clock said seven. Then week 2, it was 6.15am even though again their clock said 7am, then wk 3, 6.30am, wk 4, 7am. And they have stuck to it. Not once coming out their room, they even say to me now at bed time, Mummyb don’t forget to turn our clock on. I don’t do it with the baby, but it was always my eldest 2 that were waking up the baby at 5.30am, now their staying in bed til 7am and sleeping the baby is aswell. I get up at 6.30 and get showered and ready so when the kids get up theirs no rushing and everyone feeling irritable, tierd and grotty. You are a legend THANKYOU So So So So MUCH! Can’t express enough how this has changed our lives! :-)

  17. says

    I have 3 kids. One very early riser. I eventually got denim and made curtains. This kept the light out and his internal clock with the bright mornings didn’t wake him up. Now he is 21 and doesn’t get up past noon. Maybe we turned his clock completely backwards? lol. Dark curtains…my trick. Hope it works for someone else.

  18. kitty says

    lol i wish that would work for my house. my husband’s family are all those weird people that don’t need much sleep. i’m the only 8-10 hour sleeper in my house. my husband only needs 4 hours a night to be rested and ready for the day. when he sleeps longer than 4 hours he gets horrible migraines. the girls seem to be taking after him they only sleep 5-6 hours a night nap or no nap. they will stay in their room and play until they hear their daddy up and moving around. *rolls eyes* he sends them to wake me up so we can get started on the day. thats on a good day. other days i stay up with him. he goes to bed right be for the kids are going to be up for the day…. so no sleep for me that day.

  19. Beverly says

    I did this over 30 years ago with my first child. She was about 3 and knew her numbers already. I bought her a digital clock and told her she couldn’t get up till the first number was a 7. Worked like a charm!

  20. Becky says

    We have a gro-clock for my daughter. She’s three now, but this has been helpful for her since she was just 2. When I set it at night a blue star shows. At the pre-determined time a yellow sun appears. It has two settings, one intended for naps, but I use one for work days when we have to be up earlier and one for weekends when I want a bit longer in bed. I really like the clock idea too, but the sun allows two different times without having to learn different numbers or change the clock.

  21. says

    We used the lamp trick since there’s a hallway lamp just outside our son’s door. When I turn on the light, it’s time to get up. He is often awake before that (almost 12 yrs) but if he isn’t, it’s his cue to get up.

  22. polly plum says

    We had the same issue with our now 19 yr old triplets, when they were in the 2-3 yr old range. Our son learned how to climb out of the crib first and for safety reasons, of course we didn’t want him wandering around the house alone, without supervision. He also learned to climb INTO his triplet sisters’ cribs, waking them. that was a problem , too, and on our end, mu husband and I were beyond exhausted every single day and didn’t want to wake up one minute earlier than we had to for my hubby to get ready for work, and wanted a little treat to sleep until maybe 7 on weekends.We did this method when they were old enough to recognize the numbers and understand the concept. We also put several colorful board books into each crib at night, rotating them to keep their interest.(I know Eric Carlewas a favorite!When they woke up we would encourage them to ‘read’ their books by handing them a few and asking ‘what book are you going to read until I’m ready to get you out of bed?This saved our sanity and health- teaching them to wait until a certain number was on the clock to get out, and the sturdy board books.When they were in the 4-5 yr old range we replaced the digital clock with a regular clock, teaching them that it was time to get up when the big hand was on the 12 and the little hand was on the 7. I think this helped them learn how to tell time a little earlier than they would have otherwise.

  23. says

    Becky,

    You’re such a parenting rock star. I know that when we gave our six year old a digital clock it really helped him get a better concept of our expectations– not to mention, we can set alarm when it’s bedtime so we don’t have to be the “bad guys”– it’s a win win!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Brittany

  24. tina says

    I have an almost 2 1/2 year old, he used to go to sleep at 7:30 and wake up at 6:30 every day. Then he started waking up at 5am and come in my room, I would put him back in his bed and he would go back to sleep until 6:30am. Just this past month he is now waking up at 4/5am every morning and coming in my room, I out him back in bed and he comes out, I tell him its too early and its nite nite time, and I out him back in bed, at that point he is now getting up and standing at his door screaming my name, I get up put him back in bed and he gets up and screams for almost and hour and by that time it is time to get up. I NEED HELP, I cannot take It anymore and he is unbearable now in the mornings and later in the day. What should I do. HELP PLEASE!!!

  25. Kitty says

    My son is only almost 15 months old but is waking earlier and earlier – has been 4:50am the last 2 mornings. He is also only napping for between 1-1hr20m and I can’t resettle him to get anymore sleep. He falls asleep independently, I keep him in his cot when he wakes early, until 6-6:30am – which has worked previously to shift his wake up later, and I am having to put him to bed by 5:30-6pm otherwise his day is far too long & the later his bedtime the less overnight sleep he gets in total (as later bedtime doesn’t give a later wake up time annoyingly) I’m not sure how to escape this over tired trap! Any thoughts?

      • Stacey says

        I just read your article about getting kids to sleep later. My baby is 19 months old, so it’s hard to rationalize with her as one might with an older child. She wakes up at 5:30 EVERY day! and with daylight savings, she is now getting up at 4:30 am!! Any suggestions? She goes to bed between 7–7:30 pm. I’ve even tried keeping her up later but she still wakes up at the same time. I’m feeling like a zombie! Any suggestions?

      • says

        Hi Becky,

        My 2 year old wakes several times a night since she was about 3 months. We are up for 30mins – 2 hours at a time. I have been doing a sleep diary to see if there is a pattern. I have found that when she has a nap for 1-2 hrs in a day she is up a similar amount of time at night so I have reduced her daytime naps.

        From reading your post ‘my 2 year old is waking at night’ I have since been slightly waking my child before I go to bed to reset her body clock. After only trying this for a few days she now only stirs a couple of times a night and is back asleep within 5 minutes. This is so amazing as I am finally getting more sleep. I just wanted to say thanks and I will definately be continueing with this. I wish I had seen your post earlier. Thanks heaps!

  26. Laura says

    My 2.5 yo used to sleep from 8:30 to 6:30, almost on the dot, with a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. Occasionally he would go through phases of getting up at 5 or 5:30 for a few weeks. Right now he seems to have difficulty getting to sleep before 9 (we still do 8:30 bed), gets up at 5 or 5:30 to go potty (just trained him although he still wears diapers at nap and bed), and theb loudly calls my name until Iget him at 6:30. Then he takes a 3 to 3.5 hour nap in the afternoon.

    I can deal with 5:30 now, but it makes it impossible to go anywhere during the day as he’ll fall asleep in thr car. Not to mention were having another baby in Feb.!

    We have tried earlier bedtime, but 8:30 seems to (usually) work the best. Should I cut short his nap? Get him a toddler clock and set it to 6:30?

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>