So your toddler is waking between 4am and 6am and attempting to start their day? Not cool...
Find out why this may be happening.
Why is that toddlers have to wake everyone in the entire house the minute they wake up? It's not even like they have a "grace period" of 10 to 15 minutes when they are just quiet and starting the new day. It tends to go from 0 to 100 in the space of 30 seconds - they are up and rearing to go!!
Are you meeting your toddler's sleep needs?
If your toddler is getting more sleep than required during the day then this may be contributing to them waking up early in the morning...they simply are just not tired enough to sleep for any longer no matter how hard you try!
At 12 months your toddler will need 11 to 12 hours overnight and 1.5 to 2.5 hours during the day (spread over two naps).
At 18 months you can expect your toddler to sleep for 1.5 to 2 hours during the day (one nap) and still sleep for 11 to 12 hours at night. By 2 years your toddler will need 1 to 2 hours of sleep during the day and 10-12 hours at night. As your toddler goes through their second year, you will need to decrease the amount of day sleep they are having. By the time they are 2.5 years it can be as little as 40 minutes to 1 hour.
When they reach 3 to 3.5 years of age, they will not be needing a day nap anymore and be sleeping 10 to 12 hours overnight.
Is your toddler overtired or under tired?
To ensure that your toddler is getting the right amount of sleep, it is best to follow the higher end of the sleep times listed above and then adjust as needs be. Waking early and upset is often a sign of being overtired - an earlier bedtime is needed here. On the reverse side of this, if you put your toddler to bed too early they will wake due to being under tired - they are simply just not sleepy enough. This is where a regular routine can be very beneficial as you know exactly what time and how long to let them nap and exactly what time bedtime is each and every day.
Sun coming into your toddler's room in the early morning will more than likely wake them. When our bodies are exposed to light we start producing serotonin (the hormone responsible for waking us up). Our sleep hormone, melatonin is only produced in the dark so ensuring your toddler has a dark sleep space from the time they go to sleep to the time you want them to wake will be a huge factor in combating early morning wakes!
One day you get your toddler up at 5am, the next day you give them a bottle or drink hoping they will go back to sleep. Another day you put them in bed next to you and let them watch a show on the iPad so you can get 40 more minutes of shut eye. Do you know that all these things are just sending such mixed messages to your toddler? Consistency is key - decide what you are going to do and stick to it. If your toddler is 2.5 to 3 years old a Gro Clock can be a great investment. If they are in a "big" bed, put a baby gate across their door.
YOU decide what time is a respected wake up time in the morning, not your toddler! So you have decided that 6am is the earliest time you will get up in your house? Treat any waking before your designated "morning time" as a night waking. Would you let your toddler get out of bed to watch tv at 1am? Well 4am is not a great time to do this either so don't give in! Giving in and letting your toddler do this will only reinforce the early morning waking.
Lauryn Stanlake - Infant and Child Sleep Consultant