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My son who is now 7 months old started waking up an hour early for about the past 3 weeks. He does not do this consistently. I was looking over my notes and it seems that he has been waking between 5:45-6:30 but occasionally sleeping in until 7am (which seems to happen mostly on weekends). I should add that I have dark out blinds in his room and a white noise machine running all night long.

Here’s my theory for why he is waking an hour early:

First, it is getting lighter sooner. I think this is setting off a natural alarm clock in Cooper that says, “rise and shine”. Unfortunate for Chris and I because our alarm clock says, “no thanks we need another hour”. I have tired to darken the room even more than it was, but there is still a faint bit of daylight creeping through, enough to make it appear to not be night but morning. The hormone that signals sleep, melatonin starts to decrease in the early morning hours, causing us to have lighter sleep. Sunlight also decreases the amount of melatonin that we produce.

Second, our neighbors above us (we live in a condo) have been waking up early in the morning it seems. I hear them somewhere between 5am and 6am. I can hear their footsteps and water running. Occasionally, I might even hear their dog tramping across the floor or let out a bark. They are not being overly loud, but the noises are enough to stir me awake. (I am a light sleeper to begin with.)

Conclusion: I think I am just going to have to accept the fact that Cooper is waking at 6am. I cannot not tell God to make the day light come up an hour later and I cannot tell my neighbors above us to wake up later. This just means that Chris and I need to go to bed an hour earlier at night and wake up at 6am instead of 7am. Oh well!

Future Action: Since we are moving to Texas in a month, the time zone will change and we will be an hour behind Maryland time. This might be the chance for me to get Cooper back to waking at 7am. I will be in a quieter house with no condo neighbors and the time change will make it easier for me to just shift his schedule.

There are many reasons your little one could be waking early in the mornings

  • might need less sleep– check my post about the average amount of sleep your infant should be getting daily. It could be that your child is older and now requires less sleep at night or during the day. If your baby is getting too much daytime sleep, it could be causing him to wake early. Or if you little one is sleeping too long at night, they could be waking up.  https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/sleep-requirements-for-infants/
  • morning nap is to close to nighttime sleep- if you don’t keep your baby up long enough in the morning, your little one could be confusing the first nap of the day as part of his nighttime sleep. Try extending his wake time between the time he wakes from nighttime sleep to the first nap.
  • afternoon nap is to close to nighttime sleep- the last nap of the day or the afternoon nap if you are down to two naps is to close to nighttime sleep, this could also cause your child to possibly wake up early.
  • hunger- your child could be going through a growth spurt or just need more food. Try feeding him more solids or offering bottles/ nursing more frequently during the day to prevent him from waking early in the morning. You can also try to offer a later dinner that has more carbohydrates to keep him fuller longer. You can also do a late night feeding (some people call this a dream feed). A late night feeding is when you feed your baby after already being asleep for the night between 10-11pm. This might help to hold his hunger out longer in the morning.
  • needs a longer awake time- you might try keeping your child up longer in between naps and nighttime sleep. Your child may not be tired enough to sleep for a longer stretch. If you adjust their awake time, they may sleep longer. See my post on infant schedules, it includes average awake times for infants. https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/infant-schedules/
  • overtired/ overstimulated- if you child has been not sleeping well and may have had a lot of disruptions to his sleep, then that too could cause him to wake early. Try to get your baby to bed during their “sleep window” before they become overtired/ overstimulated. Stay as consistent with your schedule as possible too- this helps to get your little on back on track. See my post on sleep windows https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/sleep-windows-get-them-to-bed-before-its-too-late/
  • too bright in bedroom- the room may be to bright in the morning. Invest in some darkening blinds or put cardboard up to block the light.
  • too noisy- invest in a good quality sound machine/ white noise machine, run a fan, or play soft music in the background to block out external noises from loud neighbors, your own home, or outside.
  • room temperature is too hot or too cold– make sure to dress your baby appropriately for bed. If they are either too hot or too cold they will wake more easily, especially in the morning when melatonin, the hormone that helps us to sleep, is wearing off.

Some kids are just early birds

If your child wakes up happy, you have tried all the suggestions above, and you have seen no improvement, then you might just have to accept the fact that your child is waking early. Some children just wake early. Just adjust their schedule as needed to accommodate the earlier wake time.

Other Resources About Early Risers

Note: many of the ideas were pulled from Good Night, Sleep Tight p. 98-100 and the internet resources provided

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In the book Good Night, Sleep Tight Kim West writes about sleep windows. A sleep window is the time your child would naturally go to sleep. If you time it right, your child’s body starts to produce melatonin, which is a hormone that helps induce sleep. If you keep your child up past this precious sleep window, they stop producing melatonin and start producing cortisol, a stress-related hormone that will eventually overstimulate your child, thus creating a second wind. “He will be more agitated, more difficult to console, more likely to need a lot more of your time and energy to help him wind down again and get to sleep.”

If he naturally falls asleep around 7pm and you keep him up until 8pm, he will most like not sleep well. He’ll have a hard time falling asleep and even staying asleep. He may wake several times in the night and maybe even wake earlier than normal in the morning before he is well rested. “This cycle can lead to poor naps the next day, which will lead to an overtired baby at bedtime, which leads to poor nighttime sleep.”

It is important that you learn your child’s sleep cues. Every child is different, but here are a few common sleep cues: “rubbing eyes, yawning, becoming less active, maybe a little listless.” Don’t wait until your child is fussing and crying, almost always at this point you have waited to long and your child is overstimulated/ overtired.

“If you have trouble detecting your child’s signals, keep one eye on him and another on the clock. Try going into a quiet, dimly lit room and engaging in a very gentle activity when you think nap time or bedtime is approaching. The signs may then appear.” For me, I will take my son into his bedroom and turn off all the light and only turn on the reading lamp and we read a story. If he will sit calmly in my lap, then I know it is time for sleep. Try taking your child to his room and reading a story, doing infant massage, sing soft songs together, or lay on the floor and talk to you child. Just keep the activity simple and quiet.

Personal Experiences: My son is currently having trouble sleeping. I suspect that he is overtired and I am missing his sleep windows. We had a lot of disruptions to his schedule last week. He had a cold, we had a home inspection (because we are selling our home) that cut a nap short, we were out late at a friends house, cut a nap short for church on Sunday. I think that all these disruptions added up. I did not see the signs at first, but a good friend of mind helped me to see that he was probable overtired. Then I pulled Kim West’s book out and it hit home. I started to really watch for his sleep cues. For my son, his eye lids get really pink and you can see the veins in them. If he yawns, I may have already been to late. So I watched for the sleep cues today, but his naps were still pretty poor, which is most like a results of poor nighttime sleep the night before. I imagine if I do it again another day, his naps will improve. He has also been waking up around 5am when his wake time is 7am. I know this is due to missing his sleep window and becoming overstimulated/ overtired. His bedtime is 7pm, but we were not always diligent about getting him to be at 7pm. I should have known better because it has backfired! So tonight, I made sure he was in bed before 7pm so he would have plenty of time to fall asleep. Another thing to note, because he was so overtired today, I went back to rocking him before naps and bedtime. I did not let him fall asleep in my arms. I only did this to help him relax since he was so overstimulate from a weeks worth of poor sleep. I am hoping that tomorrow I will start to see the benefits of getting my son down for his naps and bedtime during his “Sleep window” and staying as consistent as possible! UPDATE 4/27/08: My son is back to taking his solid 2-2 hour naps a day and getting 11-12 hours of sleep a night. It took about 2 days of being consistent with timing his sleep windows and watching his tired cues, but he is back to sleeping well! He is not longer overtired and has been in a great mood!

Quotations are from Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West p. 33-35

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