4am Wakeups? No, Thank You.

Good Morning!!!

I typically don’t post a ton about parenting because I try to keep this blog to running-related topics, but since my son’s sleep habits were affecting my running, I have decided to talk about it.

Little background on my son:

  • 17 months old
  • Sleeping through the night since an early age
  • We are outside quite a bit each day – going on walks, running around the backyard – so he gets plenty of fresh air and exercise
  • Has NEVER been the type of child that will go back to sleep if he wakes up early and I bring him into bed with us OR try to put him back to sleep (he thinks it’s play time) -> When he gets up, he’s up for the day
  • Typically sleeps 9-10 hours a night and has slept 12 hours straight once in his life (on my 30th birthday!)

About 6 months ago, my son slowly started getting up earlier in the AM.  He was a 6am (or so) riser for a while, but started rising in the 5s.  Before we knew it, 5am was a typical morning wakeup for him (and therefore my husband and I).  It was early, but since we are early risers anyway, we were mostly okay with this.

Then, about six-eight weeks ago, 5am started becoming a late morning for him…more and more 4s were becoming the norm.  Most mornings, he was up at 430am (if not earlier).  But he wasn’t tired or cranky. He was happy and bright eyed and bushy tailed.

5am is early.  4-430am is just plain ridiculous.  

So I did what most moms would do. I researched, read books, spoke to friends and family and for the month or so, have tried a handful of different things:

  • Two naps / day
  • One nap / day
  • Early bedtime (6pm) – sleep begets sleep, right?
  • Later bedtime (7pm)
  • Letting him stay in his crib until 5am (he would roll around and play for the majority of the time) – but he never went back to sleep
  • Bringing him into bed with us
  • Trying to put him back to sleep in his crib

Nothing worked.  

Each night, we went to sleep hopeful and each morning, my heart would sink when I heard him in his crib when it was still pitch black outside.  Some mornings I cried.  Other mornings I cursed into my pillow.  I felt like a huge failure.  It seemed everyone I spoke to had children who got up 7 or later!  Why was my son SUCH an early riser?

What was I doing wrong? 

As of this past weekend, he was still getting up early.  But the breaking point for me was Monday morning.  We spent a wonderful day at my sister’s wedding on Sunday – my son took an hour or so nap in the car on the way to the wedding and a 30 minute catnap on the way home (around 430pm).  He ran around and played NONSTOP for FOUR hours.  My husband and I were exhausted and worn out Sunday night from following him around the whole time.  Everyone in my family joked that he was going to sleep til late morning because of how active he was.

Guess what time he woke up?  430am.  This was not normal.

I decided to go against everything I had read and heard (re: toddlers should be in bed between 6-8pm) and start putting him to bed later than 8pm.  I realized he’s NOT the type of kid to sleep more than 10 hours/night so why was I putting him to sleep at 6pm hoping he would sleep 12 hours!?!  It wasn’t fair to expect this from him.

Just like my running, I realized that there isn’t one solution to every problem.  He’s not like my friends or family’s children and I needed to stop relying on what worked for their children.

The last two nights he’s been asleep by 8:05pm and 8:20pm and has woken up at 5:20am and 5:40am.

I’m not saying I’ve cracked the puzzle with my son’s sleeping, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I may have started to move things in the right direction.  I should also note that the past two days, he has napped later (1030 and 11am) and longer than he ever has before (3 hrs 15 min BOTH days -> anything more than 2 hours is unheard of for my son).

I’ll do an update in a few weeks on how things have progressed.  My plan is to keep his bedtime around 8:30pm and hope that he sleeps 9-10 hours/night!  Fingers (and toes) are crossed!

What type of sleeper is your child?

Have you had a similar experience?  Please share any tips or advice you may have! 


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    51 thoughts on “4am Wakeups? No, Thank You.

    1. I know thisbis an old thread. I would like to know how you all got on in the end as I have been going through this since my babys birth 2 years ago and really need help. Xx

      • Hi Diane!
        So the later bedtime and transitioning to one nap seemed to do the trick. He is now 3 years old and still naps most days (but I limit naps to 90 min or less). Most nights he is asleep by 8/830 and gets up around 6 – still early compared to other kids, but MUCH more manageable than 4am!
        Wishing you luck with your little one!! =)
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        • Thank you for responding. I’m glad to hear your little one seems to be sleeping a little better. I am going to try the later bed time again as when I did it before he was still getting up at same time so I was losing my evenings as well say getting up at crack of dawn and Harry was getting less sleep.

      • I can relate to so much of this article right now! It’s 5:51am, my son (18 months) is in the other room crying. Up since 4:30! I can’t get him back to sleep. Happened yesterday too. Was also doing the 5-5:30crap previously. He also gets one nap a day and activity at daycare. This is so frustrating and I’ve said the same thing: this is not normal!!! Idk what to do. He goes to bed around 7:30 or so but doesn’t usually fall asleep until after 8. This is hard for a full time working mom. *grits teeth. Idk if it’s sleep regression or what! He doesn’t seem to be in pain bc he’s fine when I hold him. Ug. I think one kid will be all I can handle!

        • Abbie – I am so sorry that you are going through the same thing. I have good news and bad news! LOL. My oldest son is 3 1/2 – he occasionally naps (I wake him after 90 min) and often goes to sleep around 8 and gets up around 530-6am. Not idea, BUT way better than it was two years ago. My youngest requires way more sleep – as I’m typing this he is just starting to wake up (it’s 710am) from going to bed at 8 and napping for 2 hours. Some kids just need more sleep than others and it’s not something we are doing or not doing. I just keep telling myself that wakeups for school will be a piece of cake for my older soon! =)
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          • Everyone keeps saying “this too shall pass.” He has been up between 4-430am every day this week! I even tried cry it out…he stood in there crying for an hour and a half! I finally brought him in bed with me so we could get sleep. Brought him in my bed again this morning :( Hope he’s not getting in a bad routine of that! I’m guessing it’s an 18/month sleep regression and or 18-month separation anxiety. Which some articles say can last like 6 weeks!! Umm no! I’m so tired. We went to bed at 8:30 Friday night haha! 😉

    2. Thank you so much for posting this! Your sons sleep pattern sounds exactly like my 17 month old son! I’m taking your advice to move up his bedtime!:)

    3. Please help me….I’m having the same issues…. My baby girl is 17months n it’s been a week strait….. Her waking up at 4am….. N I can’t take it any more….

    4. I think there are two kinds of babies/toddlers: the ones who follow the “sleep begets more sleep” book advice and the ones who are the opposite. If they go to bed later, they will get up later. My daughter has always been the latter and has never gone to bed before 8 pm. She is now almost 3 and goes to bed at 8:30 to 9 and sleeps until after 8 in the mornings. It’s sometimes annoying that she isn’t in bed by 8 pm sharp, but I’d rather her sleep in, and she’s less cranky. Don’t be a slave to the books for sure.

    5. Wow 4:30am is early! I think I would be in tears all day! My kiddo is almost 3 and her bedtime has always been between 8:30pm & 9pm. It’s has always worked for us with our schedules and she sleep until 7am everyday.

      Good Luck!!
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    6. Actually, I can relate to you.. I used to have that before especially my kids wake up very early and I need to have longer sleep..
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    7. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have much advice. But, yes, 4:30am is EARLY – and I don’t blame you for not wanting to wake-up that early :) Hopefully, the later bedtime will help, and you’ll be able to sleep an extra hour.

      PS – your little guy is SO stinkin’ cute!
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    8. Good luck with this! I know every parent is so different with what they want their child to be able to do – so from the beginning with baby number one we worked on a latenight bedtime (9pm), rising at 8/9am, because we had church commitments in the evenings a few nights a week or would visit people for dinner and basically wanted to be able to stay out later without our child falling to pieces :) So this later bedtime has really worked for us personally. As we add children, it’s the later rising that is so nice because when I’m pregnant each time it sure is nice to be able to sleep in :) :) I know tons of people who’s kids go to bed super early, but there are so many variables that there is definitely no “right” answer – how about this for you – we live in England right now and it is light outside until 9:30pm!!! So we all just feel like staying up later and enjoying each other’s company :) And when we lived in Maine two babies ago and then transferred to Hawaii when the baby was 7 weeks old, we basically spent the 7 weeks after she was born in the basement – away from the sun’s schedule – so I could get all four children onto a super-late schedule (going to bed at 1am, getting up around 11 or 12) so that we could make a smooth transition to Hawaii — not that the other kids would have been an issue, but I figured if the baby was going to start “sleeping through the night” 8 hours right at 8 weeks (which is the schedule we have used with all our babies) that she might have a super-hard time adjusting to a 7 hour time difference or whatever it was :) Sorry – rambling off topic now!! :)
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    10. All kids are different, but like you said 9-10 hrs/night is normal, which means you have to decide, do you want him up late at night? Or up early in the morning? My youngest is 19 mos – she goes to bed at 8:45, wakes up once near 1am for a nurse, then goes back to sleep until 7-7:30. Her daycare puts her down for a 90 min nap around noon. She’s always gone to bed late bc she wants to play with her 2 older sisters, and I’m ok with that because I’m also a night owl. Hugs! There is no way I could function at 4:30 am – eeeek!
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    11. I wish I had good tips for you. SO glad though that the later bedtime is working. Our guys go to bed at like 8:30 or 9 and that is NOT what the books say to do, but it works for us. Hope things keep getting better. I tell you- they know when we get comfortable in a routine. I mean, they just know and like to mess with us. Ha.
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      • Kristin – it’s so comforting to hear that other parents put their children to bed later. Tonight he was asleep by 8:25. I’m so hopeful that we are on a good path here…but I truly go to bed each night hopeful that he’s miraculously going to wake up later. And you are right – as soon as things start going well, it’s like they want to throw a curve ball at us (even if it’s out of their control) – like learning to walk or sit up ! HAHA

    12. We just moved Sophia to the “big-girl-bed” on Sunday and until this morning she was waking at 7-7:30 her normal wake time… But this morning she decided to come running in to our room at 5:38 saying “Morning Mama, go down stairs have breakfast?” Ugh..I didn’t go to track tonight because Im just too wiped out from loosing that two hours. When she was still in the crib, if she rose early I would sit with her and sing and put her back to sleep. I do the same if she wakes up from a nap early (anything before two hours she goes back down because a typical nap for her is 2-3 hours. She naps once a day). Sometimes I’ll even do the whole nap time ritual again: read a story, sing, rock put her down. I can tell if she is cranky she needs more sleep and I insist on it, because we’re all happier in the end. Sometimes she used to cry for a bit and then fall asleep, but if the playing or calling for me in her crib would persist for longer than 30 minutes I’d go get here. She’s always been a fantastic napper, sleeping through the nights came later (around 9 months) but she’s never been an early riser (with a few exceptions). I think the best advice I’ve gotten was what we implemented when she was a newborn: putting her to bed awake (instead of nursing or rocking her to sleep) so she learned to self-sooth and put herself to sleep. I think that has contributed to her being a good sleeper now.
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      • Oh gosh – I’m sure the early wakeup is b/c she’s out of her comfort zone! Moving to a big bed is SUCH a huge adjustment!!! Some nights, I put AJ down awake, others I let him fall asleep in my arms – he is really easy to put to sleep at nap time and at night – I talk to him a bit about how great our day was and what a good boy he is, give him some kisses, then tell him it’s time to close his eyes and go to sleep – and he does just that – he closes his eyes, nuzzles into me and drifts off to sleep. I love the bonding time with him so some nights I let him fall asleep in my arms – but he is really great with falling asleep on his own. He wakes up a good amount at night – and I’ll see him on the monitor standing or sitting in his crib. He doesn’t cry – just babbles a bit and then lays down and goes to sleep. So when he gets up at 4/430, I know he’s up for the day. There are some mornings when he wakes up fussy and those are the rare mornings that he will go back to bed – but usually I hear his happy little voice calling for me or da-da – which is a sign he’s wide awake. I definitely think it’s true what they say though – some kids just need less sleep than others – and in AJ’s case, he’s always been on the low side of how much he gets. Most nights are 9-10. The rare nights we get 11 are usually b/c he napped terribly during the day or something like that.

        • So I tried to get out for a morning run this AM and I Sophia caught me before I could get out the door! This is a new problem…I posted about it today and mentioned you on my blog:-)
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    13. Michelle! I feel your pain. It’s likely he’s going through a transition. Aren’t they always? I feel like around this age their sleep always seems to get funky but it will eventually work out. My youngest was definitely a earlier riser for a long long time. I’m not sure what cracked it but I think it was when he moved into a room with his older brother and J basically yelled out E to stop crying at 5am and stop waking him up! LOL. But seriously, we moved him to a big boy bed, gave him “sleep rules” which included staying in bed until 6:30am and the boys had a clock that turned green when it was OK to wake up. Actually, the clock seemed to work for J when he was younger too. Not necessarily the most helpful comment and I know every child is different but I am hoping that you cracked the code!!

      BTW – he’s so stinking cute!!
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      • Thanks, Christine =) And thanks for your encouraging words!! I really hope it is a stage! At what age did you move your sons to big boy beds? I know it’s based on climbing out – but I have no experience with boys (other than my own son)…I have a feeling that he will likely be climbing out (or attempting to) fairly soon since he climbs up on everything these days. xoxo

        • haha my boys never actually climbed out of the crib because er…I kept them in a sleep sack for as long as possible. They could never get their legs that high. LOL. I think that both boys went into big boy beds around 2.5. But I do have friends who moved their kids earlier.
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      • Lindsay, that’s what I’m slowly working towards now!!! Last night was 8:15…tonight will be 8:25 or so! =) Fingers and toes are crossed!!! xoxo

    14. I FEEL your pain!!! I have a 4:15er… he is is four going on five and we have tried all of the above techniques. The later we put him to bed the earlier he wakes up. We have just accepted it, but there are days when my husband and I are so cranky because, well, 4:15 day after day is just unbearable,.. except for him.. he seems to be fine with it. I am hoping someday it changes. Sincerely, exhausted and worn out Momma
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      • Oh no!!!! Lisa!!! Don’t tell me THIS!!! LOL. I keep hoping that either a) the later bedtime will work (so far it seems to be) and if it doesn’t that b) the older he gets, the later he will sleep.
        I will say that we tried the later bedtime when this first started (the 5am wakeups) and he started getting up earlier. What helped this time was that he took a 3+ hr nap on Monday and woke up at 1:30, so he wasn’t absolutely exhausted by 8pm like he usually is if we try to keep him up from an 11am or noon wakeup.
        My husband and I take turns (although lately it’s ALL him) getting up with him while the other tries to go back to sleep. But, it’s broken sleep for us and we are extremely cranky and irritable. It’s frustrating to feel like you need to be in bed by 8pm in order to be ready for your child’s wakeup at the crack of dawn. =(

    15. it is all about figuring out what works for you and your family. then a few days after you figure out the magic combination of bedtime and naps they change switch things up! we just have to roll with it. good luck!

    16. We put our daughter to bed at 7pm (she’s 2 tomorrow) and lately it takes her about 45 minutes to go to bed….so we are thinking about pushing her bedtime to 7:30pm. She wakes up between 6:15 – 6:45, we let her play in her crib for a little and bring her in our bed on the weekends to get a little cuddle….extra sleep. She naps for 2 hours at the sitters and 3 hours for us on the weekends. She didn’t start sleeping well (through the night) until 18 months and now she is getting her 2nd year molars which is waking her up at night.
      Sleep is an everyday battle. With a second on the way…it’s going to be interesting. We are now having challenges with bath time. Seems like if it’s not one thing it’s another.
      Good luck.
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      • HAHA. That’s what I feel like too!! I keep thinking “how the heck am I going to function with a toddler who gets up at 4am and a newborn in a few months!??!” LOL. We usually let him stay in his crib anywhere from 15-30 min – usually until he starts getting fussy – he’ll play and babble away for a good amount of time and I find that the quiet awake time is good for him…The mornings when he wakes up fussy or crying are the mornings he will fall back to sleep on his own. It’s comforting to hear that I’m not the only mom struggling with sleep =)

    17. Great post… i wonder if this is in my future. Our little one also has slept through the night early on. We put her down around 730 and she is usually ready for sleep around 7. She then wakes up 5-6. If she wakes up early, same thing, chills in the crib (maybe goes back to sleep) and is awake and happy.

      Good luck and great job and finding what works for you.
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      • My fingers are crossed for you that you don’t have to deal with this!! LOL. I thought that my son was going to be SUCH a great sleeper b/c from an early age, he was sleeping 6-8 hours, then 8-10 hours without waking up. Then he hit a wall and hasnt really progressed or improved!! LOL. Honestly, I think he is a kid that needs the very low end of the sleep range that all the books talk about…every once in a while he’ll surprise us with a long nap or 11 hours of sleep, but for the most part, he’s happy and content with 9-10 a night!

    18. I’m having the same problem too! My 21 month old was sleeping until 7:30 or so and now is waking up before 6! It’s killing my morning workouts! And she goes to be at 9! I’m gonna try cutting her nap to one a day and see if that does the trick. And maybe it’s just a phae they go throught it! Good luck with your little one! Maybe cutting a nap to once a day and a little later bed time should help!!!

      • YES! We are now at one solid nap a day. I think I was relying too much on the 2nd nap to help ME get through the day! I slowly pushed back the first nap so now he naps close to (or just after 11) which breaks up the day nicely! I’m hoping it’s a phase too – although it’s a LONG one for my little guy! Fingers are crossed for you =)

    19. Personally I could never understand why parents tried putting kids to sleep for the night between 6-8 pm and think they’d sleep late…they dont need THAT much sleep… my kids never had a schedule…they’d go to sleep when they were tired, wake up when they were ready….both are now night owls at 16 & 23 yrs (yep my kids are OLD now) wake up when they want (during summer) during school the 16 yr old has to get up at 530 and she does ok with that. Ironically I sleep 4 hrs and function best in morning…opposite of both my kids! You have to do what’s RIGHT for you and your family…don’t put a lot of attention on ‘books/experts’ …everyone is different :)
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    20. My first two (now 8 & 9) used to sleep from 7:30 until 6:30. But my 19 month old doesn’t go to sleep until around 9-9:30. she sleeps until 8am or later and has one long 2hr+ nap everyday from 1pm. I think a lot depends on the child – some need more sleep than others, but if you have a very early riser, then I would definitely shift the bedtime a little later. And make sure they are not waking for hunger.

    21. My daughter is 2 yrs 2 mos, and she’s had a 8pm bedtime for a long time now – that doesn’t seem late to me. Her bedtime is 8pm but it’s often 8:15-8:30 by the time she’s actually lying down falling asleep. She has been a great sleeper since she was a year old or so, and generally does sleep until around 7am. I made a ‘rule’ when she was around a year, that if she woke before 7am, I would not go in and get her. Sometimes she goes back to sleep, sometimes not. Even on mornings (weekends) when I’m up before 7, I do my own thing until 7 and then go get her up. I don’t think there is anything wrong with letting them have some alone time in their crib in the morning, unless he’s crying or something is wrong, I’d just leave him, and go back to sleep, or just rest until you’re ready to be up for the day.

    22. I feel your frustration and lack of sleep! With our son (he turns 3 in 2 weeks) we are just finally getting him to sleep past the 6 am mark – but never after 7 am! It’s funny because it doesn’t seem to matter hat time he goes to bed, early or late, he wakes up around the same time every morning. Sometimes he’s cranky but other times he is ready to go, go, go! I just keep reminding myself that once he reaches his teens I’ll probably be dragging him out of bed at noon :)

      This too shall pass! I wish you many family naps once the new baby arrives :)
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    23. Oh man–I would cry too! That is really, really tough! I hope you have figured it out with this approach. I can’t imagine being pregnant and waking that early when it’s not your choice.

      I have to say I’ve been so fortunate with my kids. Both began as about 7 a.m. wakers and as they’ve gotten older, it’s getting a bit later all the time. Next year my son starts middle school and I know getting up at 6:30 is going to be tough for him!
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    24. I think it’s about finding what works for him (and you). If this works, so be it. Those books are all general guidelines. They were not written for your family specifically. For the record my daughter is 2.5. She goes to bed at 7:30-8. I go into her room at 6:15 each morning. Some days she is sleeping, other days it seems that she has been up for hours. Each child is different. :)
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    25. Michele, I would definitely say keep taking advice from people, but find what works best for you (it may end up being a combination of things). Hopefully he’ll get into a nice routine before Pumpkin arrives.

      My boys are all great sleepers, in fact my husband just texted me that they are all asleep, and it’s 9:35am! Trey is 22 months old and I put him to bed between 8 and 8:30pm. He takes a nap around 11ish and sleeps about 2.5-3 hours or so. Ryan is 7 months old. He takes two 90ish minutes naps a day and goes to bed at 9:30pm and wakes up around 6am (and if we’re lucky even later). I’m sure plenty of people would think a 9:30 bedtime for him is way too late, but he sleeps through the night and wakes up at a decent hour. Otherwise Mommy will be cranky and miserable…I NEED sleep to function.

      Good luck, hope you found the secret to his sleep success!!!

    26. Hi,

      How does he GO to sleep? To you put him down awake and he falls asleep on his own or do you nurse/rock/cuddle him to sleep? I think the trick to teaching them to go back to sleep when they wake up is teaching them to go to sleep in the first place.

      I think it’s just fine to put him to bed later too! My 2 1/2 year old goes to bed at 8:00 every night and I wake him up at 6:45 every morning (on weekdays) and he sleeps until 7:30ish on weekends.

      Good luck!

      • Hi Lori! Thank you for your comment!! Some nights he falls asleep in my arms – other nights he goes to sleep on his own. He knows how to put himself to sleep and often wakes up in the middle of the night – sits and/or stands up for a bit then just lays back down and goes to sleep – no crying or calling out to us. But that’s why I often let him stay in his crib in the early morning hours – I’m always hopeful that he will just lay back down and go to sleep – but he is WIDE awake and raring to go! LOL.

    27. I feel your pain. My youngest just turned 2 and finally started sleeping through the night just shy of 22 months…as in I got more than 4 hours sleep at a time. Talk about rough. I think you just have to do what works for you and not worry about the “proper” time. Bedtime is most often between 8:30 and 9 for ours, because that is what works with our schedules. As long as he’s happy and awake after going to bed later, I honestly see no problem with that. Good luck!
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    28. OOh man michelle! I feel you. I’m struggling with how to get my son to sleep through the night. He’s 19 months goess to bed at 8:30 but without fail wakes up sometime between midnight and 2:00. I’m a terrible mom because I go in and get him and sometimes even give him a bottle.

      I wonder if yours might be a phase. Hopefully the later bed time helps. Good luck!
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