6/14/09

Morning Wake Time - The importance of consistency


Having a consistent morning wake time (within 30 minutes) is very important when trying to establish a good routine and healthy sleep habits and particularly when you are trying to problem solve with your routine. If your baby wakes up at a different time every morning you are never able to get a consistent daily routine and his body is never able to get accustomed to waking and sleeping at the same time each day. You also end up having to constantly time how long it has been since baby has been awake or asleep instead of simply putting baby down or getting baby up at a certain time. Of course, with young babies you will most likely need to use this method accompanied with sleep cues at first, but over time, baby should start to sleep around the same time each day.

A consistent morning wake time also helps keep night time sleep during the night rather than during the day. If you let baby sleep in until noon each day he may not be tired enough to go to sleep at a reasonable time at night, or he may start to wake up during the middle of the night because he has had too much sleep during the day.

Lastly, if you do not have a consistent wake time there is a possibility your child's routine may drift later and later since our biological time clock lasts a bit longer than 24 hours (see Biological Rhythms and Sleep). Normally this isn't a problem for adults because we have to get up for a variety of reasons (work, kids etc), but if we are free to sleep in late we may end up sleeping later and later each day.

34 comments :

  1. I am wondering if I should wake my 4 month old in the morning, in order to take a consistant morning nap. She sleeps from 7pm-8:30 or 9:30 am (waking twice to eat) so her morning naps aren't happening at a consistant time. Sometimes a later nap (10:45) due to a later wake time gets interrupted because of us having to go get her oldest brother from school. I have a hard time waking babies but will do it if it is necessary. Advice appreciated! Thank you.

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  2. Laurie,
    I think it is really important to try to get that morning wake time within around 30 minutes since it helps keep the consistency for the rest of the day. So yes, I would wake her. And you might try putting her to bed a bit earlier to make up for any wake time lost in the morning since she seems to be a child that needs a lot of night sleep. I would make sure the night sleep isn't robbing too much of her nap time. I have no idea if this is an issue but I am just throwing it out there. Maybe she is up at night a fair bit and that is why she is waking so late in the am even with a good 7 pm bedtime.

    Rachel

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  3. Rachel,
    I have a 2 month old. We are now elongating her sleep time at night. Most times she goes 5-6 hours from her dream feed. I'm having a hard time deciding what time her morning wake time should be... I'm on maternity leave now so 7am would be ok, but I'm concerned that we'll need to move it earlier when I go back to work and she needs goes to daycare. Do you have any advice?

    She typically wakes on her own now between 5:30 and 6:30 depending on when her dream feed is (we're working on finding the sweet spot). I like 6:30am but her daddy would like her to be awake before he leaves for work at 6:30 so he can at least say good morning.

    I'm not usually this indecisive but this is kind of a big thing and I could use some advice.

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    1. Mama S,
      You can do it at 7 am now and then slowly move it earlier as you get close to ending your maternity leave. Moving to an earlier morning wake up is a million times easier than moving the other way around. Most kids do pretty well with this. So that would mean you would feed an put her back down if she woke earlier than like 6:30 for now.

      If and when you move her earlier, whatever times works for you will probably be fine. Just make sure bedtime is approximately 11-12 hours prior to morning wake up time. She may have a later bedtime right now (compared to morning wake up) but it should be moving earlier relatively soon. If not, issues often pop up.

      Rachel

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  4. Hi Rachel- Thank you so much for your helpful Blog.

    My question is the opposite. My little 6wo guy keeps waking earlier than wanted. I would like to start the day at 6:30 am but he consistently awakens at 6 or 6:15am. SOmetimes as early as 5:45. Seems like a little bit of time difference, but makes big difference later in day. I agree that if he awakens more than one hour prior, I would feed and put back down until 7am and adjust the day, but how can I get him to sleep later? I have since been shush patting him and using the pacifier from 15-30 minutes to get our wake up time the same every day.
    If I keep this up and only feed him at 6:30am will he eventually sleep until 6:30am?
    His bedtime is 7-7:15pm. In past few days, he is now awakening before his dreamfeed at 10pm (used to dream feed at 10:30pm) and used to wake at 2:45am and now awakens at 2am, but has still slept until 6 or so... Is this a sign that the awakening time will also move earlier?

    Thank you again for answering both issues...

    Nicole

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    1. Nicole and Joe

      If I keep this up and only feed him at 6:30am will he eventually sleep until 6:30am?

      Very likely and it is probably your best bet right now.

      Is this a sign that the awakening time will also move earlier?

      It may or may not but my guess is that it won't make a difference. If it does, it will hopefully be short lived as he gets bigger and older. Keep in mind that he is pretty young and may end up with some growth spurts increasing feed frequency every now and again. Some kids don't wake up more, others do for a short time.

      Rachel

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  5. Ds is 7 mos and wakes at 5 a.m. a lot if no NightFeed. I try doing a feed at 5 and he win't go back to sleep. I have tried ignoring and that does not work either. He will only go 10 hrs before waking and I am thinking if I do a bedtime at 6, he will wake at 3:30/4. He will always go back to sleep if he wakes at that time. Think that sounds like a good idea?

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    1. Molly,
      I wonder if he is a ten hour sleeper. There are some kids like that.

      Consider trying wake to sleep method

      Can't hurt to try 6 and see what happens.

      Good luck
      Rachel

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  6. Just found your blog and could use some advice! My baby is four weeks old and I'm wondering if she is too young to implement a wake up time, or if I can start now. I have been consistent with her bedtime routine and she is usually down by 8 pm, then gives me three long stretches at night (4 hours, 3 hours, 3 hours) and wakes up sometime between 530 and 6 but will always go back down for another 1.5 to 2 hours after that.

    I would like her wake time to be either 7 or 730, should I start trying to implement this now, or wait until she is a bit older? Her ped said not to try to schedule her until six weeks.

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  7. I have a 4 month old. I have been trying to follow her lead, but her pattern is no pattern. Each day is slightly different and I am at a loss. My first daugther went to bed at 8:30 and slept to 8am. She is 2 years old now and is the best sleeper! My second daughter is vastly different.
    I try get her up the same time each day, but by the last meal of the night she is either too tired and goes to bed early (and can't leep all night) or goes to bed by 10pm and still can't make it. Sometimes I let her cry if she sounds whiney,but other times I have to get up and feed her. That said, I know she can sleep through the night as she was averaging 10 hours a night before she hit her 4 month growth spurt. Plus, she appears to be a cat napper. I started putting her down 2 hours after waking and she would take 30-45 min. naps, but then she throws me a curve ball and wants to sleep only an hour after getting up! Then I try to feed her every 3.5 hours and she is not hungry, so I wait to every 4 hours and then she throws another curve ball and wants to eat somewhere in the middle. The naps and feedings always collide and I am constantly adjusting. I just feel so out of place. I am scheduler -- I want the routine. I know newborns can't do that, but she is getting to point where I know she testing me. What can I do? Please help.
    I would be so grateful if she would get up at 7am or 8am daily (which happens most of the time), but the rest of the day is all over the place. No matter what theory I follow. Lately she has been getting up to feed once a night and I am chalking it up to a growth spurt and I am hoping she goes back to sleeping 10 hours. Then at least I could stick 2-3 naps in the daytime and work feedings around it. Please guidance!

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    1. Noelle Taylor,
      I would 1) get her up at the same time each day. Maybe 30 minutes later than usual if she has woken up and eaten and gone back to sleep within 30 minutes of her morning wake time.

      I highly suggest keeping a sleep log. See how long she normally can handle staying awake at 1) certain times of the day and with 2) certain prior nap lengths.

      I would try to work with the clock and with sleep cues, not just the sleep cues right now. She may be tricking you with her cues (they can get a bit fuzzy as they get older) which could be adding to the short naps. It certainly is making things inconsistent for you and not allowing you to get the structure you desire. I suggest starting around 1 hour -1.5 hours in the am and 1.5 hours for the other waketimes maybe with 2 hours at bedtime. It is fine if she goes to bed early at night--that will likely make her sleep better. But try to either put her to bed early enough that she isn't too tired and gets a good feeding or 2) add a short extra nap in if she can't make it to bedtime and putting her to bed early is a little tooo early. An hour early for bedtime is likely fine if needed.

      You can work at the short naps (see the short nap post and extending nap posts) but you may not be able to extend them. You can at least get a routine with them. Look over the EASY routine too. That is my favorite for getting in to a routine with babies. You can find these post in the index...no time to find them for you right now, sorry.

      Rachel

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  8. my almost 4 month old goes to bed too late and wakes up too late. She wakes up at 11am naturally so I am trying waking her up at 10am every morning and then I am planning to gradually wake her up 15 min earlier each day until she wakes up when I want her to (at 7am). Is that a good idea? Will she learn to go to bed earlier if I do this?

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    1. Sounds like a great plan leah mellinger. You may have to wait a couple days between 15 minute changes to let her body adjust more and don't be afraid to aim for 8 am either. I don't think it is an issue with most kids (unless they want to wake closer to 7).

      Rachel

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  9. Hi Rachel
    My 11 wk old ... I wake her at 7 every morning.. However some mornings I go in and she is already awake. I have got up a bit earlier on a few days to check on her and have found her to be awake as early as 6.15.. just lying there happy until 7... Should I adjust her day schedule on these days or just go with it (she has a morning sleep at 0830) - some times she does seem very tired by the time I put her down for this. But as she is lying quiet in a dark room with no stimulation maybe its ok for her to be awake from 0615 -0830??? During the day her awake time is 1.5hr MAX. I worry that without me checking on her from 6am I have no idea at 7 (unless she is asleep when I go in) how long she has actually been lying there.

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    1. keepingmum,
      I'd probably let her stay in her bed until 7 to help her adjust to that wake time. If she wakes a bit earlier and gets upset, then you are probably fine to get her up then too. You are right, it is much less stimulating for her to be in her bed than playing. I'd probably still put her down for her first nap a bit early, maybe 8. I often split the difference to determined when to do the next nap (if she's up 1 hour early, I'll put baby down 30 minutes early). If you don't know when she woke up, just go off of how she is acting. See how she does with this. If she start waking earlier and earlier, you may need to adjust her morning nap and keep it at a set time to see if this helps.

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  10. Hey There! I have a 4.5 month that is waking after her am feed. We just had to spring forward for Daylight savings... It is messing everything up! She eats at 430-5am and then wants to play and won't go back to sleep. Her bedtime is 7pm, but sometimes can take her anywhere from 10min to and hour to go down.

    How do I get her to go back to sleep after the morning feeding, she is genuinely Hungry at the hour!

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    1. Danilo,
      First off, try to interact as little as possible. No talking (unless it's a quick "time to sleep"), no lights, most likely no leaving her bed. If you can't get her to go back to sleep with a swing or feed then you can try leaving her to go back to sleep. Don't stress if it takes her some time, she should improve. If she starts to cry, you can either continue to leave her, or you can try some technique to help her got to sleep then (but just keep the attention to when she's crying, not playing).

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    2. Danilo,
      you could also try waking her an hour earlier than her normal feed. Feed her then and see if she'll go back to sleep then. AFter several days of this, don't wake her anymore and hopefully she'll get back into the habit of sleeping int he morning so a feed at the old time won't cause issues.

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  11. Hi,

    Your blog is pretty great! My DS is 4 months and for the last few days I have been putting him to bed by 8PM and dropping the cat nap. His WU time is usually 715/730 and then takes a nap around 930 for about 30-45 mins then another one at 1130 for about 45 mins to an hour. He gets a massage and bath at 115/130 (which ends by 2) by which time he is hungry and goes down for a long nap at 2 and we try and keep him asleep till at least 5 but last 2 days he slept till 530. Previously he was taking a CN around 7PM for 30 mins then would go down for BT at 830/9PM but because of his longer wake timings I'm trying to drop CN and put him to bed by 8pm so that I can do a DF at 1030. One night he did his CN (a few days ago) he didn't sleep till 9PM and refused DF and woke up twice at night. He has one NW which can be at 330/4/430/5/515, i dont' feed him before 330AM in the morning. He will go back to sleep but will stir around 6/615 am and I give him a pacifier so that he wakes up at 730 (which is when we like to start our day). However, he is generally not interested in his morning feed. I find when he sleeps at 9pm he still wakes up at 730 because he poops then!

    My question is: if I put him to bed at 730 will that help him sleep better? Or would he wake up earlier?

    How do I get him to take full feed in the morning and drop the NF?

    Thanks!

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    1. Fairypk,
      I'd even aim for some time between 6-7. Rarely does it end up causing an early morning wake up this early.

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    2. Hi,

      Thanks for the reply and my late response. He wakes up from his last nap at 515 PM and I try and put him to bed by 8PM but he still wakes up at 610 but is generally sleepy then so I bring him to our bed so that he stays asleep till 730AM.

      Putting him to bed at 7PM is not an option since we both work and get home late. Do you think he is getting too much daytime sleep?

      Please help. He is now exactly 5 months.

      Thanks

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  12. This is a fantastic entry in the blog and brings up a question I have. My little girl is 4.5 months old (adjusted age 3.5 months) and is a fantastic night sleeper. She only wakes once in the night and it's recently moved from 1-3 to between 3:30 and 5, occasionally she doesn't wake at all until 6 or 7. After eating I put her back down until the morning. The thing that is difficult is her morning wake time. It is anywhere from 6:30 to 8:00 (occasionally later). It takes her a while to wake up and want to eat and then often goes down for her morning nap only about an hour and a half after wake up. I've been trying to do EASY with her but since her wake time is usually only about an hour and a half, she only sleeps about 45 minutes and she eats every three hours, that doesn't really work. She's just starting to transition to a longer morning nap. We left NY and moved to Seattle on Saturday and before we left she had 5 days of a solid 1.5 to 2 hour morning nap; her other naps are about 45 minutes and although she's pretty much switched to Seattle time, her morning nap is sometimes long and sometimes short although I think it will go back to being long. Her bedtime is consistently between 6:00 and 6:30, occasionally as late as 7:00 if she's woken up late from her final nap.
    What I'm wondering is, should I find a wake time for her and start waking her in the morning? I would love to have her naps be more consistent (even if not exact in time) but since her wake time is so different from day to day it's really hard. I was thinking that 7:00 would be a really good wake time and normally she's up before then but sometimes it's later.

    Any suggestions or recommendations would be helpful!
    Thanks!
    Jessica

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    1. Jessica,
      At this age, it is totally normal to go back to sleep in the morning after 1-1.5 hours. It's possible that short morning nap is from too little or too much waketime (or just something that'll improve with time) so monitor it to see if more or less time in the am helps.

      7 is a good time. I wouldn't vary it by more than about 30 minutes (so wake her by 7:15 if she isn't up and don't go to her until at least 6:45 in the morning). Hopefully you'll get more consistency in the day and be able to troubleshoot things better with a more consistent wake up time

      Rachel

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    2. Thanks! The last couple of days she's been very awake in the morning and been up for 1.5-2 hours. This morning she was up for 2 hours and then slept 2.5! Her longest nap in quite some time! Her wake time was 6:30 and although she started quietly before that, by 6:30 she was awake and quite unhappy so I went in to get her. I'll try and wait a bit longer but if she's upset I've got to get her! :-)

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    3. Jessica,
      Be careful about that 'have to go in and get her' with early morning wakings because they often move them earlier and earlier. You don't need to leave her if she's upset, but you should probably do whatever you normally do for sleep training until your set morning wake up unless it is right before the normal wake up time.

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    4. I am still having a hard time with her wake up time. She is now 6 months old and her wake time is still really inconsistant. I think that I might need to try and wake her in the morning - the last few days she's been waking between 7:30 and 8, however that's really strange since her wake time used to be between 6:30 and 7:00. She goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:00 without any issues.

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    5. Oh, and we don't sleep train, we've never had to because she's such a good sleeper, so what should I do in the morning if she's up too early?

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  13. Hello. I have 5mo twin boys who were full term, so no preemie issues. Since they were 5 weeks old, we've worked a very consistent eat/wake/sleep schedule with them, starting their day at 7a and putting them down at 7p. Over the past couple of months they've started waking everyday some time between 4:30-5:30. I know they weren't hungry because we were doing an overnight feeding between 3 & 4. Even when we fed them at 4, they'd still wake up between 5 & 5:30. I've tried feeding them and putting them back down until 7a, but they're just up for the day at that point and won't go back down.

    For a long time we would get them out of their cribs and put them in their rock n plays until 7a. However, they're started rolling over and have done so in the rock n plays, so I no longer feel safe with that as an option. That was just a bandaid pout in place by a sleep deprived husband, not a solution anyway!

    I don't know what to do to get them to sleep until 7. My husband doesn't handle them on his own all that well, he just gets flustered easily when they're both crying and there's only him to deal with it. Our baby sitter doesn't arrive until 7 and I have to leave at 6:15 to be at work on time.

    We've also tried to back up bedtime to see if that will work, but getting them to make it until 6:45-7 is already a challenge. It seems like they naturally want to go from 6:30p-6a. We really need the wake up time to be 7 and don't have a preference on bedtime. I get home at 5 and my husband is home at 6, so we'd obviously like more time to see them in the evening, but we'd be willing to put them down earlier if that's the solution. I just don't think they over 12 hour sleepers!

    I guess what I'm trying to say is... HELP!!! Amanda

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    1. I also meant to mention that they have a dream feed between 12 & 1, and as of four nights ago have dropped the 3-4a feeding. However, they are still waking around 5-5:30 every day. We've also tried wake to sleep, with no success.

      I meant to mention that their naps are a disaster. They will only nap in their cribs for 30-45 mins at a time. They used to take three 1.5 hour naps each day, then at 12 weeks they started only taking the cat naps. They are 21 weeks tomorrow... so this nap situation (disaster) has been going on for quite some time.

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    2. Amanda,
      If they're only napping for such a short period, my guess is that they need an even earlier bedtime. At least 6 pm. Rarely does a bedtime that early cause even earlier early morning wakings.

      I'm glad you dropped that 3/4 feeding, they didn't need it (assuming no growth issues which is sounds like they dont' have) and you both need to be extra tired!

      Look over the early waking post to make sure there aren't any other things to troubleshoot there, particularly a dark/quiet room. See if using a sound machine helps. After that point if they are still waking (which they likely will since they've really gotten into a habit of waking from being responded to with the waking and starting their day then), then you'd want to do whatever sleep training thing you normally do (or would like to do) during that time, idealing giving as little attention as possible then. These wakings are pretty persistent though, so unless there is a quick fix, they may take a good amount of time and consistency to change.

      If they are sleeping together, consider separating them for a short time to see if it helps with the wakings.

      Rachel

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  14. Hi Rachel, I have a 14 week old that is not consistent with her wakeup time whatsoever. We put her down for bed every night at 8-8:30pm. The problem i am having is that since ive been keeping track of her sleep is that her first dream feed is never the same if it is i feel like its a fluke. it varies from 2am-6am. During the day she only stays up for like an hr or an hr and a half at a time and sleeps usually 45 min to an hr. I feel like she is taking too many naps for her age. The past three days she has been waking up at 2:20am i feed her and put her right back down but then the next time she wakes up hasnt been the same. I am completely lost on what to do because we are consistent with her bedtime. Any help/advice would be appreciated! Thank you

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    1. To add to my comment above she takes about 6 naps a day,
      and if she wakes up before 8am i don't give her any play time i try to put her right back down after feeding her which is usually easy.
      I noticed on your chart that she should be taking around 4 naps a day and thats what i've read before which is why i'm concerned about her taking 6 naps. I don't know how to cut the naps because she will get very cranky if i keep her up past an hr. I can get her to stay awake for an hr and a half sometimes.

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    2. Casey Hedlund,
      If she is doing well with 6 naps a day, no worries. Some babies take more naps for longer, especially if they are short.

      As for night sleep, some babies start to sleep longer and don't regress back. Other babies will go back and forth for some time. You can try to help her get a bit more consistent by holding off feedings a bit if they occur earlier than usual. Working on good sleep habits overall will also help with the night sleep--as likely will moving bedtime a bit earlier.

      best,
      rachel

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  15. Hi Rachel-
    Thank you for this great post I just came across your site and love it. We are having a very hard time with our 3 month old. She will not sleep before 9:30 or 10 and sometimes won't go to sleep until 10:30. She has been taking a catnap around 7. How can I make that catnap into her bedtime? She used to wake up around 7am but then it went all over the place.I have been waking her up at 7 the past couple of days. She takes her first nap from 8-10 or 10:30. Her other naps are 12-12:45, 2-2:45, and 4-4:45. We can't seem to stop these catnaps. We start her bedtime routine at 6:30 but she is usually so tired that at 7 she nurses very little and just falls asleep but is wide awake again at 7:45. I will go and nurse her when she wakes up but she is wide awake and will not sleep until 9 or 10 every night. I nurse her and then she cries a lot and after an hour of nursing and her crying she finally falls asleep. I am not sure if me waking her at 7am is a good idea and if I should just let her wake up herself. I thought that by waking her it would help with her going to bed earlier. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you.

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