This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

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, and cranky and they don’t feel their best.  Overall, tired kids are just not very happy kids.   (Not much different from tired adults)

When our kids were young, I would put our kids to bed at 7:00. I wanted them to get a full 10-12 hours of sleep (because it helps them to be happier & healthier), but in doing so, our routine has taught them to sleep later naturally.

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.

Even going to sleep at the same time every night has an enormous impact on our kids’ educational, social, mental, and physical 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.

kids waking too early? try this

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…

how many hours of sleep do kids need?

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 many hours of sleep do kids need?  check out this sleep chart with wake-up times

I’d adjust it a bit, to fit your family’s schedule, but it does show that kids need a lot of sleep… and to that point, I agree.

bedtime routine

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.

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)

This idea is to naturally set our children’s internal clocks to a time that is more suited 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 that 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

kids waking up too early
kids waking up too early

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)

Good luck!

If you would like access to my sleep schedule, free sleep course & printable chart, join here


in bed by 7:00
2, 3 or 4 year old waking at night
Mommy will you lay with me?

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 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?

    1. 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. 🙁

    2. As a daycare provider I am disappointed for you that your daycare is insisting on naps for a 4 year old when you have specifically asked them not to. They are required to provide quiet time for older children, with quiet books and activities but not force a nap. You can talk with them about your concerns and ask to see their quiet activities and where your child would be doing them while the younger children are sleeping. Daycare should support you as the parent, not take over. You know what is best for your child!

  2. 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

    1. My brother did this with our 4 year old nephew & it has been life-changing for him, too (he was up so early, too!) 🙂 Good luck!!

      1. I used it on my 7 and 2 year old that share a room, they both responded very well. Good luck! 🙂

  3. 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!

  4. 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! 🙂

    1. OH- that makes me so happy!! 🙂 Yay!! I’m so glad that it worked!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. Oh!! lol!! That would be so hard!! (patting you on the back!)

      1. both kids have started to sleep a constant 5 hours a night with no naps YAY …. *sigh* if only they were older I could sleep.

  7. 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!

    1. Oh you’re kidding!! Great minds think alike! 😉 I know- it seriously works so well & then I know that they are safe in their beds all night long. 🙂

      1. My almost 3yo son wakes between 4-5.30am and then won’t go back to bed and starts screaming waking up my 6 year old who gets up between 6.30 and 7am. I see there appears to be no solution around this – telling him he’s got to go back to bed and get up later just doesn’t work!!
        Advice to solve this one please?

        1. I would try that little clock. It works great for them!

          Or… put a little mattress or pillows and a blanket on your floor. When he wakes up, tell him he can come sleep in there until 7.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!!!

  13. 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?

    1. Try reading my post about “my 2 year old is waking at night” – bet it will help. Or my post on “how to keep my kids in their own bed”
      good lic!!

      1. 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?

        1. Try reading my post called “My 2 year old is waking at night” – I wonder if that will do the trick? or my post “how to keep them in their own beds”

      2. 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!

  14. 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?

    1. I would do both- I would cut the nap back to an hour. My friend had to do this and it worked. 🙂