Toddler Wakes Up Too Early? Here’s My Guide

It’s a familiar scenario that all parents of toddlers are familiar with: your toddler wakes up earlier than their regular wake-up time, and you find yourself bleary-eyed and exhausted.

But instead of getting frustrated, why not turn this scenario into an opportunity for a fun morning of play and exploration?

From creating a comfy bedtime environment to forming a morning routine, here are some tips for tackling the dreaded “too early” wake-up call from your little one.

Early Rising Toddler – Intro

toddler awake early

You know the struggle. You’ve finally gotten your little one to sleep in their bed, only to be awoken by their excited cries mere hours later.

You’re exhausted and defeated as you attempt to get them back to sleep.

The key to solving the early wake-up problem is understanding the root cause. Toddlers tend to wake up earlier than adults because their circadian rhythms, or body clocks, are not yet in sync with the 24-hour cycle of the day.

To help your little one’s body clock stay in sync, it’s essential to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This means setting a specific time every night to start winding down, such as reading a book or taking a bath.

Keeping lights in the bedroom dim and setting regular daily wake-up times can also help your toddler learn to stay in sync with the day-night cycle.

It’s also important to understand that, being creatures of habit, toddlers may take some time to adjust to a new sleep routine.

Reasons Why it is an Issue

lady asleep on books

No matter how much time you spend tucking your toddler in for the night, they always seem to wake up at dawn. This can be a real problem for parents, as early morning wake-ups can quickly disrupt everyone’s sleep schedule.

Here are a few of the reasons why it can be an issue when your toddler wakes up too early:

  1. Early mornings mean more daytime crankiness. Any parent of a toddler knows that when they don’t get enough sleep, their days can quickly become a battle of exhaustion and tantrums. Not only is this exhausting for the parents, but it can also be hard on the child.
  2. Too much time spent in bed can lead to bad habits. When your toddler wakes up too early, they may be tempted to stay in bed and play instead of getting up and starting their day. This can lead to bad habits, such as not getting up on time and not following a regular bedtime routine.
  3. Early morning wake-ups can mean less time for other activities. When your toddler is up early, it can mean less time for other activities such as mealtime, playtime, and even schoolwork. This can lead to missed opportunities and delays in learning.
  4. Early wake-ups can prevent the rest of the family from getting enough sleep. When everyone in the house is getting woken up early, it can mean that other family members are not getting enough rest. This can lead to fatigue and decreased concentration levels.

Early morning wake-ups are never fun, but a few changes to your child’s bedtime routine can help ensure that everyone in the household gets enough rest.

Causes of Toddler Waking Up Too Early

Biological Factors

It’s a common dilemma that all parents can relate to: Your toddler wakes up too early! You, desperately in need of that extra few hours of sleep, are crashing into the day while your little one seems to be bursting with energy.

What’s going on? Well, this may be a biological issue.

Your toddler’s internal body clock is doing its job. This body clock, or circadian rhythm, controls our bodies’ sleep and alertness. Unfortunately, toddlers tend to have a slightly different body clock than adults, which often means they wake up before sunrise.

Another biological factor comes into play as well: melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Toddlers tend to have lower melatonin levels in their bodies, which is why it’s sometimes difficult to sleep through the night.

So, as a parent, what can you do? Well, try to stick to a regular bedtime routine. This routine should include a regular bedtime, a soothing bedtime routine that doesn’t involve screens, and ensure that their bedroom is dark and cool. This can help your toddler maintain a more consistent sleep-wake cycle, which could result in them sleeping later.

Behavioral Factors

As a parent, you know there’s nothing more frustrating than having a toddler who wakes up too early. Whether they wake up at 4 am or an ungodly hour, it’s never a pleasant experience. But don’t despair just yet – several behavioral factors can contribute to a toddler waking up too early, and a few strategies can help end it.

First and foremost, be sure to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This is one of the most important things you can do for your toddler’s sleep habits (and anything else in their life). Setting a designated bedtime and following a routine will help your toddler understand bedtime expectations and give them a better chance of sleeping through the night.

On the flip side, it’s also important to avoid overstimulation before bedtime. This means no screen time, no strenuous activity, and no sugar. It’s best to keep the pre-bedtime routine calming and quiet, allowing your toddler to wind down and drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Also, avoid having your toddler nap too late in the day. Napping late can disrupt nighttime sleep, so keep napping in the morning or early afternoon.

Finally, make sure the bedroom is conducive to sleep. Keep the room dark, cool, and free of distractions. Your toddler should feel safe and secure in their room and drift off to sleep without worrying about being woken up by noise or light.

Ways To Address The Problem

Create a Pre-Bedtime Routine

routine (1)

Getting your little one to stay in bed until the sun rises may not be easy, but you can create a pre-bedtime routine that will help make the mornings a little more relaxed.

Start by creating a calming evening environment for your little one. Turn off screens an hour before bedtime and replace them with soothing activities like reading, playing with toys, or drawing. If your toddler gets sufficient exercise during the day, then it’s ok to skip the physical activity before bed.

When it’s time to wind down, ensure the room is dark and at an appropriate temperature. A white noise machine can also help create a peaceful atmosphere.

After the evening activities, help your toddler brush their teeth and put on their pajamas. To make this part of the routine extra special, you can do a bedtime story before tucking them into bed.

Finally, it’s time for goodnight hugs and kisses. Let your little ones know you love them and that you’ll see them in the morning.

With a little effort, you can create a calming pre-bedtime routine to help your toddler stay asleep until the sun rises. Sweet dreams!

Try To Make The Room Darker

dark room

The best way to keep your toddler in bed longer is to try to make the room darker. Blackout curtains can help block out the sun and keep your little one in dreamland longer. Not only will this help keep your little one snoozing, but it will also make it easier to keep the room comfortable – no more bright sunshine beating through the windows!

If you cannot use curtains or shades, you can also try other darkening methods. Hang blankets or large towels over the windows to keep out the light, or try using blackout shades or window film. You can hang thick, dark curtains such as velvet or other heavy fabrics if you want a more natural touch.

Allow Naps During the Day

toddler napping

Naps are the glorious few hours during the day when toddlers recharge their batteries, and parents get a chance to (finally!) take a break.

But what if you’re one of those unlucky parents whose toddler wakes up too early in the morning and refuses to take a nap during the day? Don’t give up hope: allowing naps during the day is a tried-and-true method of helping your little one fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

First things first: make sure your toddler is getting enough sleep. The AAP recommends that toddlers get between 11-14 hours of sleep daily. If your toddler isn’t getting enough hours of quality sleep, consider making a few changes to their sleep schedule. Encourage them to take two naps daily – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This will ensure they get their much-needed rest while still allowing them to stay active and alert during the day.

Next, as discussed above, create a consistent nap schedule and stick to it. Make sure to wake up your toddler at the same time every day, and keep them on a regular nap schedule. This will help them form healthy sleep habits and make it easier for them to fall asleep at night.

Avoid Caffeinated Beverages Late in the Day

Caffeinated drinks have absolutely no place in the diet of any child! The AAP agrees too. But, if you are someone that does allow it, you should avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day. It will help to make bedtime easier.

This is because caffeine is a stimulant, making it harder for a person to drift off into a peaceful slumber. If your toddler has difficulty winding down and falling asleep at bedtime, you may avoid giving them caffeine late in the day.

Tips For Parents Who Have a Toddler That Wakes Up Too Early

Make Sure To Get Enough Sleep

cat asleep

Ensure that you are also getting enough sleep!

If that means going to sleep earlier, then so be it. Obviously, this may be a challenge if you have others in the house, but it is something you should try and achieve.

If you can nap when your toddler naps, go ahead and do it.

Talk To Your Toddler About The Issue

I know toddlers are not the greatest communicators in the world, but it is worth talking to them about it.

Start by discussing why it is important for them to get enough sleep. Explain why having adequate rest is so important for their health, development, and well-being. You can also talk about setting a designated bedtime and waking time for them to stick to.

To make the conversation a bit more interesting and fun, you can play games to illustrate the importance of sleep. For example, you can have them build a mini fort or pillow castle and then explain that this is what they need to do every night to get a good night’s rest. You can also use role-playing and stories to help your toddler understand the importance of getting enough rest.

It is important to remember to be patient and consistent when talking to your toddler about the issue of waking up too early. Try to be understanding and reassuring, and offer lots of love and support. It is a challenging concept for a toddler to grasp, but it is worth the effort.

Make The Early Morning Hours Fun

mom playing with toddler

Every mom knows the dread that comes over her when her toddler wakes up at dawn, ready to start their day. Most of us would rather roll over and squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep, but that’s not always an option.

So, what can you do to make the early morning hours fun for your toddler?

  1. Get Creative and Play Games: One way to make the early morning hours fun and engaging for your toddler is to play games. Pull out the board games, coloring books, and puzzles. You can also make games encouraging your little ones to explore their imagination and use critical thinking skills.
  2. Go for a Walk: An early morning walk is a great way to start the day. It’s also an excellent opportunity for your toddler to observe and explore the world around them. And it’s also a great way to get a bit of exercise.
  3. Have an Early Breakfast: Eating breakfast together can be a fun way to connect with your toddler in the morning. Instead of just having an ordinary breakfast, you can make it a bit more special by making pancakes or having a themed breakfast.
  4. Get Crafty: Craft activities are a great way to keep your toddler busy and engaged in the early morning. You can set up a craft station and encourage your little one to be creative by making collages, painting, or even making toys.
  5. Read Books: Storytime is also a great way to make the early morning hours fun for your toddler. Reading a book or two together is a great way to bond, encouraging your little ones to use their imagination.

These are just a few ideas to make the early morning hours fun for your toddler. With creativity and ingenuity, you can make the early morning hours a fun and special time that you and your toddler can enjoy together.


Parents can take comfort in knowing that although it can be challenging to adjust to a toddler’s early wake-up times, patience and consistency can be managed.

Ultimately, the best way to help toddlers adjust to the appropriate sleep schedule is to provide a quiet and calming atmosphere that encourages a regular and consistent sleep routine.

Good luck!

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