Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Sleep - Early Morning Riser


  • Children who wake up early before their parents do, usually between 5 and 6 AM.
  • They come out of their bedroom and want everyone to get up. A few are still in the crib and they just cry.
  • They are excited about the new day and want to share it with their parents. If the parents don't respond, they make a racket.
  • Such children are called early morning risers.

Call or Return If

  • Your child is not sleeping better after you try this program for 2 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

About This Topic

Causes of Early Morning Riser

  • The most common cause is too much sleep. They are well rested.
  • Early morning risers are not waking early on purpose. They are no longer tired. They've been put to bed too early the night before, had too many naps, or had a nap that was too long.
  • Some children also just need less sleep than the average child. Such children often have a parent who needs only 6 hours or so of sleep at night.
  • A smaller group of children are not well rested. They wake up early because of a bad habit that has developed. They are allowed to go back to sleep in the parent's bed, eat breakfast or watch videos at 5 AM. Since they are still tired, they fall back to sleep again within an hour. These habits may persist even after the original cause of too long a nap is removed.

After Care Advice

Reduce the Length of Naps:
  • Assume your child is getting too much sleep during the day.
  • Most children over 1 year of age need only one nap, unless they are sick.
  • If cutting back to one nap doesn't help, shorten the nap to a maximum of 90 minutes.
  • Also, make sure your child gets exercise after his nap, so he'll be tired at night.
Delay Bedtime until 8 or 9 PM:
  • Reducing naps and delaying bedtime should cure your child unless he has a below-average sleep requirement.
Establish a Rule About Waking Early:
  • Rule: If you wake up early, stay in your bedroom and play quietly.
  • Get your child a special lamp plugged into a timer. Set the timer for 6 AM. Tell him he can't leave his bedroom until the light comes on.
  • Other gadgets: You could also plug a video or music playing device into a timer.
  • Tell him he can play quietly until then. Help him put out special toys or books the night before.
  • Also, tell your child, "It's not polite to wake up someone who is sleeping, unless you are sick or it's an emergency. Grownups need sleep too."
Remove any Bad Habits that are Present:
  • Don't allow any eating, screen time, or fun time in your bed before 6 AM.
Keep in Bedroom Until 6 AM If Sleeps in Regular Bed:
  • If he comes out of his room, take him back quickly but in a loving way.
  • If he comes out again, close the bedroom door. Tell him you can open it as soon as he's in bed. Every 10 minutes or so, open the door. In a loving way, ask him if he's ready to stay in bed now.
  • If this is a chronic problem, consider putting up a gate the night before.
  • If less than 3 years, consider putting him back in the crib for a few nights.
Leave In Crib Until 6 AM if Sleeps in Crib:
  • Put some books or quiet toys in his crib the night before.
  • If he cries, go in once to reassure him and remind him of the toys. If he cries again, ignore it. If crying continues, visit him briefly every 5-10 minutes to reassure him that all is well and you love him.
  • Don't turn on the lights, talk much, remove him from the crib early, or stay more than 1 minute.
If You Meet Strong Resistance, Change the Wakeup Time Gradually:
  • Some children will protest about the new rule, especially if they have been allowed to crawl into their parents' bed in the morning.
  • In that case, move ahead a little more gradually. If your child has been awakening at 5 AM, help him wait until 5:15 for 3 days. Set a timer lamp for that time. After your child has adjusted to 5:15, change the timer to 5:30. Move the wakeup time forward every 3 or 4 days.
Reward Good Behavior:
  • Give a treat for following the rule.
  • Praise your child for not waking other people in the morning.
  • A star chart or special treat at breakfast will help your child improve.
What to Expect:
  • If parents enforce the new rule, most children adapt within 4 to 7 days.
  • Expect some crying and protest during the transition.
  • Young children normally cry when they don't get their way.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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