My baby is waking too early in the summer heat & early morning light – what can I do?

Full question: ‘My 1yr old was sleeping really well. Recently in the heat and early morning light, she’s consistently waking at 5 or 5.30am and won’t resettle. What can I do?’

Answer by Emma Gawne. Emma is founder of Help Baby Sleep and is a highly qualified and experienced evidence-based sleep consultant.

All babies and children will wake briefly during the night – this is natural and related to how sleep is organised. Your baby or child will also experience frequent natural wakes during the early morning hours and will then sleep more deeply until they wake up. The 4-5am wakes are commonly responsible for early waking habits, but your baby hasn’t finished sleeping, they just find it difficult to return to sleep.

During the summer months children often find it difficult to return to sleep at this time due to the heat and light on waking.

In relation to light what often happens is your baby wakes briefly around 4-5 am in the morning and as the morning becomes lighter they are often exposed to light during this time. Over a period of days the circadian rhythm resets due to the light exposure and your baby will end up locking in an earlier wake up time due to the early release of circadian cortisol.

To help with circadian misalignment you can think about doing the following:

  1. Ensuring the room is dark enough so there is no change in light in the morning
  2. Try exposing your baby to more bright light before bed and make bedtime a little later in order to do this.
  3. Your baby may need to take a slightly later or longer nap temporarily to accommodate a later bedtime and prevent over-tiredness
  4. Don’t expect your baby to lengthen sleep in the morning right away it can often take up to 10 days
  5. Don’t move bedtime earlier until your later wake up time is locked in