13 answers

2-Year-old Early Waking

My two-year-old has been waking up between 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. nearly every day for about the past three weeks, and previously she was sleeping until about 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. This not only is a problem because my day has to get started much earlier now, but also she does not wake up happy and rested and is cranky all morning until her nap around 1:00 p.m. She used to wake up in a pleasant mood when she slept later and made it to her nap just fine. She has always gone to bed at 8:00 p.m. and putting her to bed later doesn't seem to help at all. She does seem to all of the sudden have some anxiety about noises, such as planes or thunder, but I'm not sure if it's noises waking her up all the time. Her nap is usually between one to two hours long and I had thought the longer naps were causing the problem but it happens even after the shorter naps, too. I think since she just turned two in recent months that she is probably transitioning her sleep routine/amount but I'm not sure where to adjust it. I just know we don't seem to be hitting it right so we can both feel rested. :) Also, she has always slept with a sound machine that sounds like running water to help drown out noises since she has an older sibling, although we don't turn it up very high. So I'm just wondering if anyone else has successfully dealt with a similar problem that they could share details about. I vaguely remember my older daughter waking up pretty early for awhile around this age, so I know I may be out of luck for awhile but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask...... I've just been spoiled by this little one because she used to sleep from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. and I always easily got up before her in the morning! Thanks!

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Thank you so much for all the great responses, especially to the moms that suggested putting her to bed earlier. It really does work, and everyone else in the family can start to wind down a little earlier too when she goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. She's back to sleeping until about 7:30 a.m. again and is very happy in the morning now. We figured out that she was also ready to transition to a toddler bed so now I think she's back to being happy with her sleep situations overall. Thanks again!

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Although it sounds strange, try putting her to bed about 15 - 30 minutes earlier! Especially when she wakes up so early, she may be over tired. None of my children slept well when they were very tired and they always awakened earlier. I remember how puzzled I was when I discovered this trick. Good luck!

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maybe she's done with naps? my two year old wakes up 530 to 6 as well. i just think of it as our special time together, and we sit and snuggle, drink coffee and watch the news together. it's a nice sweet quiet start to our day. it's all perspective!

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You could try reading Marc Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child", which covers sleep schedules and problems from infancy to (I think) middle elementary school age. Keeping a child up later to make them more tired only backfires, because the body then releases hormones to keep the body awake; so your child will have a harder time falling and staying asleep. John Rosemond points out in "Making the 'Terrible' Twos Terrific!" that 2-year-olds tend to start having nightmares because they're using their imagination and they cannot tell real from imagined yet. It's good to comfort a frightened child; but if they're not frightened, then they may just have gotten in the habit of waking early and need to be "reminded" of proper sleep habits. I recommend both books, but especially Weissbluth's for sleeping because it's based on extensive study of children's sleep patterns and needs.

I've heard some people tell their toddlers, "We don't wake up before Mr. Sun," and then they don't go to their child until the sun is up, at least. Then kids learn to stay in their beds/rooms and wait until morning, when they know their parents will come for them. Or you could try putting a clock in the room and drawing a picture of a particular time (either analog or digital, to match the clock) and say, "When this clock matches this picture exactly, then it is time to get up." I haven't tried this, but it's a thought. Good luck!

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My daughter (almost 3) will stay up late at night & then want to sleep a little longer in the mornings. Even if I send her to bed, she will just play in her room for I dont know how long! But I know she doesn't get 12 hours of sleep. If we "sleep in" she gets maybe 9 hours of sleep before she's ready to get up. She takes maybe a 45 minute nap at daycare during the week but hardly ever takes a nap at all at home (she may have "quiet time" watching TV though). So, I would guess your daughter just doesn't need as much sleep anymore. How long are the shorter naps? I would probably try limiting the naps to 1 hour for several days & see if anything changes.

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Hi N.. It sounds like you have a schedule change. Eek! I hate those. Just when you get settled, BAM! They seem to come up with something new. I only have one piece of advice on sleep. I read an article which has saved my sanity and proved true for us. Sleep begets sleep. If you want them to sleep more, put them down earlier and give them more opportunity to sleep. It said something about keeping them up and skipping naps being counterproductive.

It has sure worked for us. When we needed to reset her clock after a time change on vacation, I started putting her down at 6:30 (luckily it was dark early) and it took about a week to get back to our usual pattern. Or try putting her down for a nap at a new time...say 9:30 so she'll be up for lunch. She may be ready for a different (and inconvenient)nap schedule.

We also use a wave machine which helps a bunch! She definitely sleeps longer with it on. I realize that I we are unique in the fact that my child will stay in bed (got our bluff in early and she stays there for the most part....awesome!) so when I put there I have a reasonable expectation of her remaining. But it is worth a shot.

Good luck!

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We found that putting to bed EARLIER actually helped a little better! It also might work better to give her a nap earlier, too, at least until the situation gets fixed! Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby is a good book to use... :)

I understand how the early waking thing is... my 3 year old gets up between 6-7 EVERY morning. I can NOT get up that early usually... One thing that has helped the grouchiness/whines is to put to bed earlier. If he gets up at 6 he's ready for his nap BEFORE lunch time. If he doesn't get a nap, I get him in bed between 6 & 7 which sounds ridiculous to most people but he sleeps until 6:30 or 7 the next morning so he obviously needs it!

Good luck! Let us know how it goes!!

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Although it sounds strange, try putting her to bed about 15 - 30 minutes earlier! Especially when she wakes up so early, she may be over tired. None of my children slept well when they were very tired and they always awakened earlier. I remember how puzzled I was when I discovered this trick. Good luck!

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Is she in a bed where she can get out? Like a Toddler Bed or a Training Bed? If so, then you can get her a sleeping bag and put it in the floor beside your bed & try letting her Sleep in this "Special Bag" for a little while longer when she gets up in the morning. I know you don't want to form a habit that will be hard to break, but if her problem is anxiety & that is what is waking her...sometimes you have to weigh the pros&cons. I always opt for the More Sleep option! :)
Best Wishes with whatever you decide on. I hope it is successful ~ quickly! :)

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I have heard that the more sleep babies/toddlers get, the better they will sleep. This works well for our 2 y.o. daughter. I've noticed when she goes to bed late (past 8pm) she will typically wake earlier. If we put her down early (about 7pm) she will sleep much better. Sounds crazy but it works. We also have a rule at our house, if she's up before 6:45am or 7, she has to stay in her bed. She can either play or go back to sleep, but she knows she won't be getting up just yet if it's too early. If your daughter seemed rested to you, I would say maybe it's not a big deal, but you say she's cranky. So you know she is tired. Maybe you should try laying her down earlier at night???
Good luck!

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All I can say is it takes a lot of patience and consistency! You can dry covering the windows with blankets or light-blocking curtains, but if your daughter is like my son, that doesn't make a difference! Here are a couple of other suggestions to try...

1) I go into my son's room and simply tell him it's not time to get up. I go through a very, very brief version of our bedtime routine - I keep him in his bed and sing one quick song to him, tuck him back in, and tell him it's still night-night time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I made sure that I repeated this action with no option to get up for about a week, and then it started to sink in with him. He still wakes up, but I have noticed that he tends to play quietly longer since he knows I won't get him up.

2) If it seems like he's just not going to be quiet, I let him have a book or small toy in his bed and tell him that he needs to stay there and play for a few minutes. I only do that if laying him back down first hasn't worked.

3) I haven't personally had to try this one yet - we almost did, and then the other things started working. But, a friend of mine had the same problem with her son. So, she made sure there was a lamp in his room and put a timer on it. She set the timer for the time she was willing for him to get up - I think it was 7:00. He was told that he was allowed to get up when the light came on.

Most of all, be persistent. She's going to buck against it and probably cry the first few mornings - maybe even the first full week. It's unnerving and doesn't make for a peaceful morning, but being diligent does pay off. Then when there are relapses, it's much easier to get the routine re-established. Hope that helps some!

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Hi N.!
My not-quite 2 year old has been doing the same thing for approximately 3 weeks, except he typically woke up around 5 and had begun waking around 3am!!! We do nap time around 12p and decided to give a later bedtime (8-8:30, rather than 6:30 or 7). This seems to have helped. You may also consider examining his activity during the day. If he has begun watching more tv or some other inactive activity, rather than being active, this could affect his sleeping patterns. Going outside is a great way for him to expend all of that energy!!!It is important that toddlers get plenty of active time during the day.

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Here's a suggestion: Put the little one to bed at 8:00 p.m. beginning with music. Be sure to have the player on repeat so that it will repeat the disc over and over and over again throughout the night. Of course, you want to choose carefully the type of music you will play. With my children I used nature sounds with a hint of gentle light music in the background. The volume was always just loud enough to lull them into sleep without disturbing anyone outside of that bedroom.

With my neice who occasionally stays with me overnight, I use a disc called MaltShop Favorites. It's oldies from varying years like 50's, 60's, and 70's, pure music NO VOICES SINGING. The songs are played by some orchestra, soft and slow, simply beautiful. There are no drums sounds and nothing lively enough to bring out that natural dance mode. lol...For some reason, this particular has become known as the Sleep Music. When my neice is here for the day or over night, she will request the "Sleep Music" to be played for her naptime, then again at bed time.

I use it on repeat and turn it off when I am ready. For the overnight visits I don't stop the music until the next morning when I awaken. Believe me this music is a "Godsend!"

Give it a go and much luck to you!

With my own children when they were little ones I simply taught them to respect the sleep times of the others in the household by remaining in their beds with a book until Mommie awakened. Of course I had 2 very close in age and one 6 yrs older which made it much easier for me to catch a few extra winks.

take care and May Our Heavenly Creator bless your family throughout the new year abundantly with Love and Light of the Holy Spirit!


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Oh, N., I feel your pain. Thankfully once they are a little older, you can teach children to look at a digital clock and NOT come out until the time is right. But since she is so young, your daughter isn't quite ready for that. Something you might try is moving her bedtime up just a little bit (earlier). I know that sounds counterproductive, but I have talked with others who say that children actually end up getting better sleep that way. Also, I don't know if she is in a crib or not, but if so, I wouldn't rush in to get her just because she is awake. Given some time, she might snooze a little longer. If she is in a bed, you might direct her back to her room and tell her it is not time to get up yet and she will need to wait until you get her. Obviously you don't want to make her wait hours, but then maybe she would understand in her own way that waking up early is not as much fun. :) Good luck!

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Our daughter is also sensitive to noise and we placed a (what I call) sound machine in her room. It is a digital clock/radio/alarm with nature sounds that she could pick from. Honestly, it buffs out most all noises and she will sleep for hours. Homedics is one brand but I bet there are others. Give that a try and maybe give her a baby doll and when she wakes us, tell her the "baby" wants to sleep a little longer. Ask her to close her eyes for 5 more minutes. That helped us too and she would go back to sleep for an hour or more. Sleep is so wonderful ... good luck!

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