When it comes to early rising in the older child we sometimes need to get a little crafty with how we are going to teach them that 5 am is not the time to get out of bed! There are many products that can be purchased to help, however it is important to recognize that some of these products are using a light colour that interferes with your child’s sleep. Blue!
Of all the colours possible, blue is the worst light for sleep! Whether the eyes are opened or closed, the body reads that blue light and slows and stops the production of melatonin, which is our body’s natural hormone that helps us relax, fall asleep and stay asleep.
There are other options though to help teach those older early risers that they need to stay in bed just a little bit longer:) Remember that the goal isn’t necessarily to help them fall back to sleep but to reset their system that just because they are awake does not mean they get to get out of bed.
Alarm clock – If 6 am is your goal then you would cover the minutes (I used a piece of paper with the number 6). This usually works best when the goal is the hour.. 6 or 7. Adding the minutes in, 6:30am, can make it a little harder for them to grasp. When the numbers match, they can get out of bed.
Music – Some children struggle with it being something they have to see as they then force themselves to stay awake until the clock matches their number. Setting the alarm clock with music at a very low setting can help solve that problem. You want to make sure that it is quiet enough that if they are asleep it won’t wake them but they can still lay quietly with their eyes closed waiting for the music to turn on.
Light – Putting a soft light lamp on a timer is another option for the younger ones who aren’t ready for the numbers just yet. Just be mindful that you do not want the lamp to be right beside them. Using a yellow, pink or soft white low watt bulb is best.
*If your little one is waking at 5 am, you will want to work with small increments to help them extend that wake time. Starting at 5:15, then 5:30 and so on.
The 6am Rule
Anything, before 6 am, is considered early rising while anything after 6 am is considered an appropriate wake time for a child. If an early riser is getting out of bed at 5 am and the body is being exposed to light and stimulation, it will continue to wake at that time. If they remain in their sleep space, in the dark and with very little stimulation, over time their body will start to recognize that it isn’t time to wake up and start staying asleep a little while longer.
With four of my own children who have varying temperments, I’ve used all of these techniques and they have helped. We used to have a 7 am morning rule with the girls but it has changed to 6:30 am with the boys as they seem to naturally be closer to the 6 am wake time… lucky me! My third is a perpetual 6/6:15 am riser and I’m just not a morning person and able to function at that time so he is working on 6:30am using the music technique for now and it will soon will be moved to 6:45am!
You’ll have to have a few conversations about the new routine as well as quite a lot of reminders in the first few mornings but a quick “is your light/music on..” should help.
Other contributing factors to early rising include the daytime sleep, the bedtime and the response they are getting when they wake in the am. If the schedule is well organized these techniques can work but know that early rising takes quite some time to change.
Consistency and patience will be key!