Toddler waking at 5am to start the day!

Being part of the 5 o’clock wide awake club can be so draining on parents, it is essentially the middle of the night! Generally any waking before 6 am should be considered night time, anything later than that should be considered a bonus. So whilst, it may not be possible to extend the night until 7 am exactly, it is very possible to prolong sleep tendency to at least 6am. Waking too early to start the day, once you have ruled out hunger, light, noise and cold may be caused by one of the following main contributory factors:

1. Bedtime may be too late

Having an age appropriate bedtime before 8pm is a good start. For many young children, even 8pm is too late. Although when managing early rising, the knee jerk reaction is to delay bedtime later, this actually makes the problem worse. Having an earlier bedtime is very often the perfect antidote to the problem as your child is less likely to be overtired in the run up to bedtime which makes completing the final sleep cycle easier for the brain.

2. Inadequate or imbalanced day time sleep

Between 18m-2.5 years of age plus I would still anticipate a day time sleep of at least 1 and a half hours and as much as 2 hours+. Although once again it is counter intuitive, providing additional day time sleep, instead of limiting it, can also help with the last sleep cycle transition around 4.30-5am. So make sure that you are filling their day sleep need appropriately and you will then be able to start reasonably expecting them to sleep later. Take a look at our guide to toddler sleep routines for more information on napping.

3. Imbalanced day time sleep

When managing early rising, parents may find that their child is not able to last in the mid-morning before needing their nap. It would not be unusual for parents to report that since their child is awake since 5am then their nap needs to start by 11-11.30am at the latest. Although this makes sense from a morning wakeful period, it actually serves to feed the early rising problem. Delaying the nap until much later and closing the gap between the end of the nap and bedtime is actually where the emphasis should be. Maintaining a wakeful period of not more than 5 hours between the finish of day sleep and being in bed asleep again helps to correct the issue. Keep in mind the perfect time for the nap would be 12.30-1pm until around 3pm, with bedtime landing between 7-8pm.

4. Inappropriate sleep association

If your child routinely nurses or drinks a bottle within 30 minutes of being asleep at bedtime then their sleep ability may be reduced in the early morning. If your child falls asleep within 5 minutes of getting into bed then it may indicate that they are crashing or using the breast or bottle to get sleepy. If this is the case at bedtime which may be described as the easiest time to fall asleep, then come 4.30-5am (the most difficult time to maintain sleep) then it will be easier for them to wake up fully, instead of trying hard to stay asleep. Bring forward your bedtime if it is later than I mention above and create a window of at least 45 minutes to 1 hour between last drinks and proper sleep time.


If you address these elements and in turn have a consistent response in the early hours for 4-6 weeks as required, you will start to see a later sleep tendency and your day will begin later, which is great.