There are a few factors to take into consideration. Frankly, this is going to feel like a choose-your-own-adventure. There just isn’t a one size fits all answer. Most commonly it is a sign that the child is overtired, but can also be a sign that the child is under tired – or has been getting too much sleep. And there are a few kids out there that are natural earlier risers (sorry parents!).⠀
A good wake-up time for kids is usually between 6 am and 7 am, however, 530 am is still in the “normal” range – even though we adults may not want to be up that early. When that wake-up is creeping earlier than 5:30 you really need to start thinking about what is going on.
1. Take a step back and see if there have been any changes with the child.
If there have been any other factors that might be bothering the child you will want to address those first. A recent illness, addition to the family, a divorce, or a move (maybe to a different home or even a different room) can all cause sleep issues. Other things like developmental progress can cause sleep disruptions. So if they are starting to crawl or they are suddenly saying more words – it might just need to work itself out.
2. Take a look at how much sleep the child is getting in 24 hours.
Are they getting enough for their age? Newborns could need as much as 17 hours of sleep, where a teenager only needs 8 to 10 hours. Are they getting enough of that sleep as overnight sleep?
For the most part infants, toddlers, and even preschoolers should be getting about 10-12 hours of sleep overnight. If they are not getting that amount, you will want to take a look at those naps. They might take 2 great 2-hour naps – but it is affecting the overnight sleep so you will want to shorten or cap those naps. ⠀
If naps seem to be a decent length or even too short, you might need to take a look at that bedtime. Are they awake a little too long after their last nap? You will want to consider bringing that bedtime up a little earlier.
3. Early wake-ups could also be a sign that the child is getting ready to drop a nap.
Which would mean they are getting a little too much day time sleep. You might just start with shortening naps to as little as an hour. If struggles persist, it might just be time to drop a nap.
4. Take a look at the sleep environment.
Having a comfortable sleep environment is important. Although not usually a problem in the winter, early wake-ups can be caused by early morning light in the bedroom. If you don’t have blackout curtains, I highly suggest them. Other considerations for the sleep environment would be making sure it’s quiet (birds in the morning can cause early wakings) and cool (hot temperatures are known to increase the chance of sleep disturbances including nightmares).