Are your kids waking too early? Do you wish your children would sleep in just a little later? I understand completely! When your kids are waking too early in the morning, it can make them tired, cranky and they don’t feel their best. Overall, tired kids are just not very happy kids. (Not much different from tired adults)
I put our kids to bed at 7:00 and I want them to get a full 10-12 hours of sleep (because it helps them to be happier & healthier), so I have taught them to naturally sleep later.
Update: This post was written several years ago, but it is always one of the most-asked questions that I receive, so I wanted to share it again today. Our kids have continued to sleep until 7:00 (or later) thanks to this little trick. It has helped to give our kids the rest that they need (and deserve). ♥
Sleep is Essential for Children
Yes, getting a good night’s sleep is essential, so teaching our kids great wake & sleep patterns will benefit your child greatly. It will help their physical health, emotional health, and mental health.
Getting enough sleep = healthier child… better ability to stay focused, happier children… there are so many benefits to getting enough sleep. If a child wakes in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, it can cause your child to be tired, foggy, and grumpy in the day.
We have four kids and let me tell you; our kids had started waking up EARLY! Two of our kids were very early risers and I just wanted them to sleep longer so they could have the rest they needed. They were exhausted from the minute that they woke up, yet they were still waking up early.
Once I taught them how to sleep long enough to get the rest that they needed, they felt better.
Waking too early?
Is your child waking too early? You can help them learn how to sleep later.
I knew that I had to do something, many years ago, when our older kids were waking too early – around 5:00 am and 5:30 in the morning.
It was still dark outside, they were waking their siblings, causing our morning routine to begin much sooner, leaving them exhausted in the middle of the day. Naptime often came in the late morning, leaving the kids requiring a two-hour nap every day
Plus, when kids are waking too early it can cause them to be overtired by bedtime. This makes it harder for them to doze off at night. Falling asleep when you are TOO tired is just as bad as trying to fall asleep when you aren’t sleepy at all.
Bottom Line: Kids need to get plenty of sleep.
PS- our family’s normal wake-up time is at 7:00 am. I don’t consider 7:00 to be early, but 5:00 is a little out of my comfort zone. 😉
How Much Sleep Does A Child Need?
As you can see from the chart below…
- A newborn – two-month-old needs around 16-18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour time frame.
- At 2-4 months, a child needs 14-16 hours a day
- At 4-6 months, a child needs 14-15 hours of sleep a day
- At 6-12 months, a child needs 14 hours of sleep
- By 1-2 years, a child needs 13-14 hours of sleep
- At 2-3 years, 12-14 hours of sleep a day is needed (This includes a one-hour nap time)
- By 3-5 years, most children need 11- 13 hours of sleep (many children have dropped their naps by now)
- By 5-12 years, a child needs 10-11 hours of sleep
Do you want a copy of this chart? I’d be happy to mail you a copy to download- just click here to send me your e-mail. Thanks!
How the sleep time charts work:
Sleep charts are simply to be used as a reference. They may not work for your family, but they are often based on experience or studies, so I usually like to try to understand them.
I liked this sleep chart (below) shared by Wilson Elementary School. If the child wakes up at a particular time, they need to go to bed at the time below that time, depending on their age.
So, according to the chart, a five-year-old would need to go to bed by 6:45 if they had to be up at 6:00)
How to help your child begin to change their “body clock”
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.
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)
This idea is to 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.
Before you begin: Determine a wake-up time for your child & practice it.
Figure out what time your child will go to bed each night and what time you’d like them to wake up. Remember that going to bed at the same time every night is so important for their health and behavior!
After you determine an appropriate wake-up time, you need to 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 a piece of paper.
- Show it to them on their clock, so they will recognize that number.
- Show it to them in books.
- Have them practice writing it.
- Talk to your child about what happens in the morning… “After you are done sleeping through the night and you are ready to wake up, you will look at the clock and see what time it is.” (more details below)
Steps to help your child sleep later:
Materials that you need:
What to do next: The step-by-step way to teach your kids to sleep later.
- STEP ONE: WRITE JUST THE HOUR of the time you want the kids to come out of bed on your piece of paper.
- Write the number big (a little bigger than the number on the clock).
- Examples: 6:00? Write 6
7:00? Write 7. (This is our ‘allowed out of bed’ time)
8:00? Write 8.
- STEP TWO: 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 )
- Show your kids when the number on the clock (the hour) matches the number on their paper, they can come out of bed.
- Tip: If your child is going to share a room with another sibling, be sure that both children can see the clock from their beds.
Here is a close-up of our clock:
Why Do I Not Allow Them to Come Out of Bed Earlier?
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.
Do Kids Have an Internal Alarm?
I have read multiple studies suggesting that there are reasons that our bodies tend to wake us up, but oftentimes our bodies get out of sync. Science News says: “Just like an alarm clock, the body’s internal clock can be reset.”
I believe this to be true, as well. After we implemented the 7:00 wake time and our children practiced it, they began sleeping later. Now, when I am up in the morning and I check on them before 7:00 am, they are all still sound asleep.
Around 7:00-7:30, they begin to naturally awaken, thanks to resetting their internal alarms.
TIP: I should remind you that I didn’t start this until our kids were almost THREE YEARS OLD and could understand it.
How to Teach Kids to Sleep Later:
- 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 of the clock matches. Are they the same now? Ok, sweetheart- 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! It’s time to come out now! It’s 7:00!! Great job!” Do this for over a week, until they get it.
- 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.
- When you tuck your kids in at night & lie down with them, talk about the morning and what it will look like. Talk about what number they will see before they get out of bed.
1. Take it slowly. If your child has been getting up at 5, don’t expect him/her to sleep until 7. You have to do this slowly. 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 waking up at 7:00. (Just my two cents)
2. 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 specific time (example: 7:00 am). When the light goes on, they can get out of bed.
3. Another idea: you could try an alarm clock like this one that I found on Amazon with my affiliate link: (The light is red when they need to stay in bed and green when they can come out)