Skip to Content

10 Reasons Your Baby is Waking up Too Early (And How to Encourage a Later Start)

Is your baby waking up too early, leaving you exhausted and with a very long day? Here are the most common reasons why your baby is waking up too early and solutions to get your baby sleeping longer.

baby happily awake holding toes

Of all the sleep struggles we had, early morning wake ups seemed to be the most common.

My daughter usually went down for the night pretty easy and slept through the night early on. But she often had early morning wakings, which threw off our entire day.

I was not ready for a 5 AM alarm clock.

Luckily, I started to learn why early morning wakings were happening and how to fix them!

Tip: Many of these can also be used to troubleshoot if your baby takes short naps!

How Do I Stop My Baby Waking At 5 AM?

If you’re having early morning wakings with your baby, don’t assume that he/she is just an early bird! Something is probably going on in your baby’s sleep that is contributing to the early wakings.

Read through these 10 common culprits for early wakings and assess your own situation to try and get to an acceptable wake time for the day.

There’s a good chance that a habit, sleep routine, or environment that is off and your baby isn’t just a natural early riser.

baby waking up early in crib

1. Your Baby’s Wake Windows Are Off

The time that your baby is awake during the day can greatly affect their night time sleep and early morning wake ups. If your baby is waking up too early, look at their wake windows.

Are they being kept up too long in between naps? Perhaps they aren’t being kept awake long enough. Too long or too short of awake times can contribute to your baby waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep.

2. Reliance on A Sleep Prop

Is your baby fed or rocked to sleep? If so, they may experience night wakings or wake up at 4 am and look for that same sleep association to put them back to sleep.

Babies go in and out of sleep cycles throughout the night (we all do). When they wake up, they may need a breast, bottle, or rocking motion to help get them back to sleep if that’s how they got to sleep initially.

This is why teaching your baby independent sleep can be so helpful! When babies learn to fall asleep on their own, they are able to do it throughout the night and even through early morning wakings.

Break this habit and learn how to stop nursing your baby to sleep.

baby waking up too early and standing in crib

3. Their Room is Not Dark Enough

We want your baby’s room dark! As dark as a cave!

Even a little bit of light can be enough to bring your baby or toddler out of their sleep.

One of the benefits of blackout curtains is that they can help keep the sun out and allow your child to sleep later.

I recently worked with a two-year old who kept waking up at 5 am and the parents were exhausted. I recommended first getting some blackout curtains for the child’s room to make sure the sunlight wasn’t the culprit for the early waking.

The toddler slept in until 6 am the first day after the curtains were hung up, and until 7 am by the end of the week!

Too much light was definitely creeping into his room and waking him up. This can be a quick fix if you’re troubleshooting early morning wake-ups.

Make sure to have a good pair of blackout curtains in baby’s room or check out how to make the nursery dark with some DIY methods to keep the sun from peeking through in the morning. Even a brief light exposure can interfere with your baby’s sleep causing an early rising.

4. Your Baby is Overtired

You’d think if a baby is overtired, they would sleep in later, right?

Wrong.

It seems counterintuitive, but an overtired baby can have trouble falling asleep initially and staying asleep. Sometimes this over tiredness can show up in the form of a 4 am or 5 am waking.

Make sure your baby is on an age-appropriate sleep schedule and being put to bed at a reasonable hour. Most babies and toddlers need between 11 to 12 hours of overnight sleep, with naps during the day.

If your baby had a day of short naps you can do an early bedtime to make sure they get enough sleep and help them make up for their lack of day sleep.

5. Your Baby is Getting Too Much Daytime Sleep

Did you know baby’s can get too much sleep?

This one isn’t as common for young babies, but can definitely be a reason your toddler is waking up too early. Between 13 and 18 months, your baby’s sleep needs drop dramatically and most toddlers are ready to transition to one nap.

Make sure your baby is getting the right amount of daytime sleep and isn’t napping too long, which can interfere with their night time sleep or cause early morning wake ups.

baby lying down in crib

6. You Aren’t Using White Noise

The lightest sleep cycle typically occurs during the early morning hours. If a noise wakes your baby up during this light sleep phase, between the early hours of 4 am and 6 am, it can be difficult—if not impossible—for your baby to fall back asleep.

The sleep pressure isn’t as great since they just slept 8 to 9 hours. Using a white noise sound machine in their sleep environment can help block out outside noise from neighbors, dogs, or the garbage truck. Use a sound machine that runs continuously so it stays on all night!

7. Your Baby is Hungry

If your baby still needs a feed in the middle of the night, or the early morning, then this early morning wakeup can be out of hunger. By 6 months old, most babies are okay to go throughout the night and early morning without a feed.

If your baby is waking up too early and is hungry, make sure to offer them full feedings throughout the day. You can learn more about how to wean night feedings in this post.

toddler lying down with pacifier

8. The Last Nap of the Day is too Late

Look at your child’s nap schedule.

Make sure your toddler isn’t napping too late into the afternoon. Once your baby has dropped to one nap, keep enough time in between the end of the afternoon nap and bedtime so there is plenty of sleep pressure.

If your toddler is waking up from their nap at 4 pm and going to bed at 7:30 pm, you can expect a fight at bedtime or an early morning wake up.

9. Behavior is Reinforcing the Habit

When your baby or toddler wakes up at 5 am, do you rush to his side and get him up? Babies make a lot of noises in their sleep, Make sure your baby is truly awake before going into his nursery.

Additionally, if your toddler consistently wakes up at 5 am and you let him watch cartoons until you’re ready to start the day, that can really reinforce the early morning wakeups and cause your toddler to continue the cycle of early morning wakes.

toddler covering his face with bed sheets

10. They’re Anticipating that it’s Morning

This is another one for toddlers only. Toddlers have zero concept of time. If they wake up early, they may think it’s time to get up, even if it’s dark outside.

This is where the concept of a toddler clock can really help! Something like the Hatch light can show toddlers that the red light means bed and a green light means it’s time to wake up!

If they happen to wake up at 4 am, they’ll see the red light and hopefully go back to sleep until the light turns green.

How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep Longer at Night?

Of course there are also things like sleep regressions, teething, illness, and random off-nights. Make sure your baby has a true habit of waking up too early before messing with their sleep schedule.

Healthy sleep habits start at bedtime and are then consistent throughout each wakeup. You may be able to use a sleep training technique such as Ferber for early morning wakeups, but it will be difficult if you aren’t consistent each time you put your baby to sleep.

The good news is that a good sleep schedule and a good sleep routine can often help curb those early morning wakeups.

If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep (or lack thereof), I can help!

If you want one-on-one help and support getting your baby to sleep, I am here! Feel free to book a free-15-minute discovery call with me to see if working together would be a good fit!

Amy Motroni

Mary

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hello! My 13 month old is potentially going through the 12 month regression and has been waking at 530am. What I'm not sure of is what you're supposed to do at that time if they are upset. Do you just let them cry until it's a more reasonable time hoping they go back to sleep, which is highly unlikely? It seems like anything else we do is either introducing a bad habit and letting them cry for at least an hour seems unreasonable. There are a lot of suggestions out there about how to address early waking generally (earlier bedtime, adjusting wake windows) but nothing about what to do during that early morning. Any guidance would be welcome, thank you!!

Amy Motroni

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Hi Mary,

It's up to you and how you want to handle it. If your baby is consistently waking up early and you don't want to start new habits, then that's where sleep training comes in.

I would try and pinpoint why the early morning wakeups are happening though so you can nip them in the bud!

Hope that helps, Amy