As anyone will tell you, raising a toddler is hard work. That is most certainly an understatement. It can be incredibly challenging, especially when your child reaches toddler age — between 1 and 3 years old.
They can be super picky eaters, moody, and completely drain your battery with the amount of attention they require throughout the day.
The last thing you want is to put your toddler down in their crib for the night, only to have them wake up screaming a few hours later. Toddlers should be sleeping 11-14 hours a day, including naps.
If your toddler is consistently waking up early, some factors may be involved, including, but not limited to:
- Growth spurts
- Sleep apnea
As parents, you deserve that rest, and this article will provide you with the tools necessary for ensuring your toddler does not wake up early.
However, they are toddlers, after all, to wake up for entirely unexpected reasons (gas, bad dream, etc.). But have no fear! This article will also cover what you need to do if your little one does wake up before expected.
Let’s get right into it so that you and your child can have a peaceful, restful sleep.
First, What Is A Normal Wake-Up Time For A Toddler?
Generally speaking, toddlers wake up around 7:30 a.m., assuming they went to bed by 9 p.m. the night before and slept soundly. These times are just estimations from the Sleep in America poll done back in 2004.
If this worked out perfectly every time, you probably wouldn’t need to read this article. But, the matter is, it is pretty rare for your toddler to have one perfect night’s sleep after another.
According to the same study mentioned earlier, about half of toddlers call out during the night — 5-10% do so multiple times a night.
What To Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Too Early
Although I am sure you are already well aware, I will reiterate that taking care of a toddler is hard work, especially when it comes to their sleep patterns.
Luckily for you, there are some things you can try if your toddler is ready to start their day way before they should be (and way before you).
Adjust Bedtime And Naps
This is a great thing to try with your toddler if you feel they are getting enough sleep but are simply waking up too early. It might be as simple as a bedtime that is too early for them.
Try putting your toddler to bed a little later every night. If your toddler usually goes to bed at 7 p.m., keep them up 10 minutes later every night until you get somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.
This also helps ensure your toddler is not overtired by the time their bedtime rolls around — anything past 8:00 p.m. can be counterproductive and won’t help them sleep well or longer once the sun rises.
The same technique can be used for nap times. Sometimes, your toddler’s morning nap is too early, so shifting it the same way you would their bedtime can help.
Another possibility is that your toddler is out of the two-naps-a-day phase. If shortening or adjusting their nap times isn’t helping them sleep through the night, try giving them one nap instead of two.
Of course, every toddler is different, so play around with this idea and find what works best for you and your little one.
Don’t Run In As Soon As They Call.
It is very natural to run into your toddler’s room as soon as you hear them call out — it is a parent’s instinct to protect and nurture. However, when it comes to your toddler sleeping well and long enough, this might produce the opposite effect.
Give your toddler 10 to 15 minutes alone before going to see them. Chances are, they might fall back asleep by their own volition. To help this, try leaving a toy or two in the crib with them — they will be able to entertain themselves for a while and eventually fall back asleep.
Another problem with a relatively simple solution is that your toddler’s sleep environment is too distracting. Too much light can cause your toddler to wake up before expected.
Good blackout blinds installed in your toddler’s room can help them stay asleep and counteract the early morning sun shining through the window. The great thing is good blinds are also helpful for daytime naps.
Limit Liquid Before Bed
If you find your little one is waking up earlier than expected, usually with a soaked diaper, this may be what is causing their lack of sleep.
You can first try limiting the amount of liquid they have before bed. Sometimes this is enough to help keep them at least a little drier during the night, ultimately decreasing their discomfort.
You can also put diaper inserts in their diaper to increase absorbancy. Often, the feeling of a wet diaper can be uncomfortable enough to wake your toddler up.
Another option is to apply a barrier cream to their bottoms, further reducing the unwanted effects of a full diaper.
If your toddler is waking up at the crack of dawn, do not feed them right away. Instead, like naps, postpone breakfast by 10 minutes every day until you have your toddler eating at the “breakfast time” of your choosing.
Delaying feeding your toddler will help them realize that it is not time to wake up and start the day. Instead, they will learn to adapt their rhythms and sleep patterns to coincide with when you start your day by slowly adjusting breakfast time.
There are so many factors that can contribute to your toddler waking up prematurely. The five solutions listed above are excellent strategies to help ensure you and your toddler get a good night’s rest.
So, give these a try next time you are woken up at 4:00 a.m. and feel wholly discouraged. You and your toddler will be off to dreamland in no time!
You never know; your toddler may even start to sleep more!