Should I wake my child up at the same time each morning?
As a parent, you can’t control what time your child falls asleep at naptime or bedtime, but you can set the time that your child wakes each morning! Children who wake up around the same time in the morning are more likely to nap at predictable times and feel sleepy at their bedtime. Another risk of allowing a child to sleep in is that her sleep schedule can become later and later over time – if your child wakes up later one morning, takes a later nap, then goes to bed later at night, she may sleep even later the next morning. This can result in a young child sleeping on a late schedule that may not match her natural sleep rhythms. A natural bedtime for most infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is earlier in the evening (between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and a natural wake time is earlier in the morning (between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.).
At the same time, children generally are happiest in the morning if they wake spontaneously, without help from an adult. Once you have determined a wake time that works for your child, a good rule of thumb is to try and keep that wake time consistent within thirty minutes or less. So if your child wakes at 7:00 a.m. many days but seems sleepier one morning, you would wake her by 7:30 a.m. to keep her on schedule that day. Do keep in mind that a young child should not be that difficult to wake. If she is difficult to wake and/or is very cranky or irritable when you wake her, she may need more sleep than she is getting. In this case, think about either a later wake time or an earlier bedtime. Also, if your child snores three or more nights per week, talk to her health care provider about her breathing during sleep and the possibility of obstructive sleep apnea, as this can also cause difficulty waking in the morning.
About Dr. Sarah Honaker