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My Toddler Is a Perfect Sleeper, Except For This

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

We followed "The Happy Sleeper" and loooved it. Our son is now 17 months old and still craves a 6:30 bedtime. For the past month, though, he wakes at 4:30 a.m. and will not go back down. We would love a 6 a.m. wake up (or later ... but 6 am would be huge!).

Any tips or advice would be great.

Too Early

Dear Too Early,

I’m glad "The Happy Sleeper" book as been so helpful. Your little one will do well with 11 hours of sleep at least, so putting him down at 6:30 p.m. could mean he’s ready for the day as early as 5:30 a.m.

RELATED: My Baby Sleeps Through the Night, But Now I Can't

The answer isn’t to make his bedtime later, though, because as you know he might still wake at 5:30 in the morning, no matter what time he tucks in for the night. Waking up too early in the morning is one of the most common and stubborn sleep issues (as you’ve seen), so it can really take a few solid weeks to turn it around. When you’re working on sleep—for example, using a technique like our Sleep Wave method for babies over 5 months—the early night wakings usually go away first. The later ones can take longer. After 4 a.m. tends to be the hardest, because your baby has already had, in this case, 10 hours of sleep at that point.

This is very normal, so don’t worry that you’ll be waking up in the dark forever. Make sure the room is blacked out, continue your regular checks if you’re using the Sleep Wave and revisit the section of the book in Chapter 4 called "Waking Up Too Early." It’s normal to have a little regression like this, where he might have been sleeping later and all of a sudden is popping up earlier. He’ll just need you to help him adjust his internal clock using that section of the book to get him to the 11-hour mark.

RELATED: My Toddler Stays Up Until 3 In the Morning

You may eventually want to move his bedtime to 7 p.m. When his naptime falls into the 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. zone that will shift his bedtime to 7 and, eventually, 7:30 p.m., which may naturally shift his wake-up time later.

Happy sleeping!


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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.