3 Year-old and Waking up Too Early

Updated on August 12, 2010
R.T. asks from Cicero, NY
10 answers

My daughter (just turned 3) has always been en excellent sleeper. She's had times where she schedule gets out of wack, but its always been quick to resolve. This latest one it taking the cake...

Bedtime is 6:30 - 7. She usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour to fall asleep. Lately, she's been waking up during the night and letting herself out of her room. We have a gate over the stairs so she can't go anywhere fun (only bedrooms upstairs). Sometimes is in the 2 am hour, sometimes the 4 am hour, sometimes its 5 am and she doesn't go back to sleep at all.

She still naps, usually. There are days she refuses to nap and not becuase she's not tired. She's exhausted and cranky frequently and she LOOKs tired. What should I try to get her back on schedule... I want her to sleep from 7/7:30 until 6:45 or 7 in the morning withou extended night wakings, and a nap of 1 hour or 90 minutes... this is the sleep that I feel like she needs, but is resisting. I've previously gone to "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" for advice, but it doens't seem to have an concrete steps to try for 3 and up. Any advice?

ETA: I have a really hard time with the idea that a later bedtime is the answer. The problem is that she's not sleeping enough... yes, 6:30 is early, but that is our early version of bedtime... normal is between 7 and 7:30, she falls asleep by 8. Lately its been 8:30 or 9 or later falling asleep. My kids are NOT late sleepers... I can count on one hand the number of times my daughter has EVER slept in past 7:30 once she got her days and nights figured out as an infant (about 7 weeks old). We have toyed with moving bedtime back slightly (8 at the latest) but I very strongly believe in early to bed for kids.

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answers from Boston on

If she is sleeping at 7 and up at 4 that's 9 hours of sleep plus her nap during the day and that's really the right amount of needed hours of sleep for a 3 year old. They need between 10 and 12 hours total (includes nap) If you want her to sleep more in the morning then its time to start thinking about dropping that nap yeah it stinks but it will probably solve the problem.

Edited: I also don't think pushing the bedtime back is the best route to go. My 3 year old sleeps 7-7 and my 8 year old sleeps 8-8 during the summer and 7-7 during the school year otherwise he is very grumpy for school. I think cutting the nap out is the only way to go even if you aren't ready to give it up she sounds like she is. You could replace it with quiet time. My boys both go to the their room after lunch and are required to do a quiet activity whether its puzzles, coloring, or the oldest reading to the little one they need the break and so do I.

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answers from Raleigh on

My three year old goes to bed around 8:30 with a nap during the day (at daycare). He is usually right to sleep or will fall sleep in 15 minutes or so. He's up at 7:00 the next morning. She is probably at an age where she can stay up longer in the evenings, and is needing less sleep than when she was a baby, esp if she is still napping. On days where she doesn't nap, I would put to bed earlier.

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answers from Chicago on

Are you willing to try a later bedtime? 7 seems so early to me. And you probably do need to drop the nap. She will be tired at first, because of her night wakings, but she will adjust in a few days, where she will stop waking up at night since she didn't have the nap, and won't be so tired/cranky during the day.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with pushing her bed time later. She is 3 and 6:30/7 is awfully early. I have my 5 month old go to bed at that time, but my 3 year old (he will be 3 on saturday) goes to bed by 8 and usually takes about a half hour if that to fall asleep. He is up by 6-6:30 in the morning and take about an hour to an hour and a half nap around 1. Some kids are just early risers. But at 3 i think it is perfectly fine to put her to bed around 7:30/8 and see what happens. It may take a little time for her to get used to the new scheduale to.

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answers from Kansas City on

I agree that you may have to drop her nap. She probably is still tired during the day, but maybe instituting some "down" time where she has to play quietly in her room instead of nap will help allevaite some of her fussiness. It will be hard at first, but I think that is probably the key to solving this problem, unless you want to put her to bed later, which you could do, but it just all depends on when you need her to wake up in the morning. If you stay home or don't have anyplace to be before 9ish, put her to bed at 8-8:30ish and let her sleep in a bit. If that doesn't work for your schedule, then I go back to previous advice of no nap! ;) Sorry!


answers from Cincinnati on

Goodness, why put her down @ 6:30. It's daylight for another 3 hours! At this age, they are more than ready to extend their day. My kids go to bed at 9pm and wake at 7:30 or 8. And it's because they wear out and are actually tired. At 6:30, your little one probably isn't even tired enough to go to sleep.



answers from Chicago on

6:30 bedtime? Our 3-year-old is 9pm, no naps. Baby is 10 pm, 2 naps. Some night screaming, teething, etc. They sleep until 8, so it works great!



answers from San Francisco on

You should check out this site I often refer too, it is fairly new, and it is called the skinny scoop...they have a lot of advice from other moms..and there is a section on how to get your child to sleep - check it out!
Hope it helps:




answers from Little Rock on

My 4 year old started that almost the day he turned 3. He would pop up early and be cranky around nap time and refuse a nap and then try to stay up late. He got crankier and crankier over the next 3 months. I finally started forcing a nap. He had to lay in bed for as long as his sister took her nap whether he wanted to or not. He got in trouble if he got out of the bed. It took about 2 weeks to convince him that that was how it was going to be. I also covered the windows in his room to make it darker. He still sometimes just lays in bed awake for the entire nap, but mostly he falls asleep soon after I put him down. He still pops up with sunshine (around 7), but bedtime is a firm 8:00. You may be putting her to bed a little early. I picked 8 because it is starting to get dark out. At 7, the sun is still shining out and they feel that it is still daytime. You may try gating her in her room at night, although it would have to be a very sturdy, tall gate most likely. I had to quit gating my son in at 3 because he began ramming into them till he broke them. He went through every gate I owned. He is 4 1/2 now but is as big as a 1st grader. My daughter is still gated in her room and has never attempted to force the gate. She is nearly 3. I don't see any reason why she can't awaken during the night as long as she stays in her room and is quiet. You might leave books and quiet toys in her room to entertain and keep her quiet if she wakes. At the first sign of cranky during the day, put her down for a nap whether she likes it or not. Continue this until she catches up on her rest and then make a set nap time, ours is 1:30. This is what I did and he is no longer cranky. To my knowledge, he does not wake at night. He shares a room with his older brother and when he wakes, he thinks it is his duty to wake his brother which results in loud fights. If he was waking during the night, I think I would know it. Anyway, at our house, a nap is not an option, it is a requirement. If you can't sleep, stay in the bed for at least 2 hours. Hope this helps.



answers from Honolulu on

Its a phase.

You said she goes to bed a 6:30-7:00... and takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to actually fall asleep.
Try putting her to bed a tad later....
She is taking awhile to 'wind-down' before actually falling asleep...

Before bed, make everything quiet and dark. Turn off the lights except for 1 dim light. Then do the getting ready for bed routine.

She is waking during the night... my kids did that too, sometimes. It was a phase. I merely told them they had to stay in their bed, cannot turn on anything... and don't interact with them. Make it BORING.
Once she gets up, quickly without engaging, put her back in bed. She will not do it on her own... being she is so young. So you have to direct her and do it for her.
My kids, after doing that, waking... at weird hours... would go back to sleep, with my egging them on. If I expected them to do it on their own, at 2:00am... they wouldn't. They didn't battle about it. I told them its still dark, not time to get up yet. And they'd go back to sleep.

Naps are still important. The daily naps have to be a regular routine.... or she has to have quiet time.

It will pass.
Most kids will sort of resist a nap... they want to keep on playing. But they ARE tired/fussy/cranky.

My kids still nap... and go to bed by 8:00-8:30 fine.

Intermittent sleep aberrations will occur... but it passes. Just keep to your regular sleep/nap routines.... but for your girl, BEFORE bedtime, try making bedtime a tad later... and beforehand, make everything quiet/dark/boring.... since she needs to wind-down first. It is 'transitioning' the child to sleep... prepping the atmosphere beforehand.

There have been many times, when once I got my kids wound down for bed and relaxed, then in comes Daddy/my Hubby and he starts playing with them. Then, all that bedtime prep, goes out the door, and then my kids 'wake up' again and not in sleep mode. So... don't do active activity before bed... it gets them too wired and over-tired... before bed.

Also, being over-tired, actually makes a kid NOT be able to sleep, nor fall asleep well, nor stay asleep well.

good luck, just some ideas,

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