At what age is it reasonable to expect a young child to stay in her room until wake up time (in our family 6.45am). My four year old starts crying out for me from about 6am despite me explaining that we don't make loud noises until her elephant alarm clock lights up and sings. Is my expectations realistic? 

sweet dreamsIt is certainly realistic to have an aimed for wake up time, in fact it is one of my key tips for sleep. There needs to be a set time that means it’s time to start the day. And it isn’t 5am or 5.30am. For some children it is certainly 6am for others 6.30am and again for others 7am. The time you set as your start for the day should be based on a few things.

Firstly the age of your child. If you have a baby then it is highly likely to be 6am. At 12 months of age it is highly likely to be 6.30 or 7am. This is to do with their natural rhythms.

Next I look at what time your child actually went to bed the previous night and what time they actually fell asleep. Now if you 4 year old was asleep at 6pm then 6am is certainly realistic. 12 hours slee
p is normal for children. Unfortunately most children do not get 12 hours sleep and are overtired. 12 hours is not some ‘gold standard’ that is unachievable. If on the other hand your 4 yr old was going to bed later at say 8pm and waking at 6am then I would simply advise you to bring the bedtime forward to 7pm and she should then start waking later. Bedtimes DO have an impact on the waking time in the morning but not in the way you logically think. Ie. a later bedtime means a later sleep in the next morning is a myth! This is simply not true, it in fact makes your child wake up earlier if anything.
The timing of dinner and milk if this is still given the previous afternoon/night also impacts the waking time in the morning for most children.

Another factor to consider is day sleeps? If your child is still having a day sleep then this is interfering and not allowing her to achieve a 12 hour sleep overnight for sure at the age of 4 years.


Momo Sleep Trainer Clock by Babyzoo

Finally have a look at how she goes to sleep the night before. Is she independent in her sleep cues? If you do not know what sleep cues are then read up and make sure hers are independent or what is also called ‘self settling’. As children who rely on you to put them to sleep in anyway find it the most difficult to resettle on their own at 5-6am.

If none of these apply to you, then be reassured that if your daughter goes to sleep at 7pm, has no day sleep, eats well at the evening meal, self settles then be confident in your decision to start the day at 6.45am. Let her know it is okay to wake early however the rule is to stay in her bed in her room and read quietly or rela x until her elephant alarm clock tells her it is time to start the day. There should be no reason for early wakers to wake the rest of the household, they can relax and wait patiently in their wonderful room, read in bed or chat to their toys until the set wake up time for the whole household.

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