Wake To Sleep – last ditch for habitual Early Risers?

Before you think about Wake To Sleep

Now. Before we start, I need to make a massive caveat on this: Wake To Sleep is a method I use with families when we’ve tried to resolve early rising through all other traditional methods – early nights, a proper nap routine and a consistent night-waking response. That’s because early rising is, in the majority of cases, directly connected to the child’s overtiredness and, once that’s managed, it disappears. But this can take a few weeks, or even longer to happen. Early rising is the toughest element of sleep issues to sort and needs consistency to disappear. So don’t be tempted to crack on with Wake To Sleep if you’ve not given the holistic methods a really good go.

Okay – so caveat done. Let’s get into this:

So … what IS Wake To Sleep?

In a nutshell, Wake To Sleep involves going in and waking your child up in order to help them sleep better.

Now, before you panic! This is a tried and tested technique, and really not as WTF?! as it sounds. If your child is a habitually waking at 4.30am no matter how many naps or early beds you’ve tried, then read on. Do not use this if your child wakes randomly in the night, this is about a habitual waking that happens every single night at the exact same time.

How to tell if the Wake to Sleep method is for you

Firstly, keep a sleep log for at least two weeks. Note down the times that your child wakes and what reason they are waking. If you notice a pattern that’s not affected by tackling any overtiredness then you can determine that your child is a habitual waker, and this method may be your solution.

In your sleep log, pay particular attention to the time your child wakes in the morning, if/when and for how long they nap for, what time they fall asleep at night and what time the wake up occurs. This will help you understand if they’re getting enough sleep in the first place (see my relentless reminder of ‘are you sure you’ve tackled the overtiredness?!’ If you realise they’re not getting enough sleep, go back to scratch and think about Wakeful Windows, early beds and a consistent, fair response to night-wakings. Don’t do this unless you’ve done that first!)

Using the Wake to Sleep Method to eliminate the waking

Once you have your sleep diary and you know what time your child is due to wake up, you can now work on eliminating that wake up. So this is what we do:

  • Go in to your child around 30-40 minutes before you expect them to wake- this is to re-set their sleep cycle. Don’t be scared!
  • Work gently- you don’t want to disturb your child, you’re just re-setting the cycle. So shush, pat, talk gently- whatever it takes to gently wake your child from their current sleep cycle.
  • Once your child has made either a movement or a slight noise, they’re starting to wake. Some children may reach this stage as soon as you enter the room, others may take longer.
  • Leave your child and allow them to fall back to sleep. The sleep cycle has been re-set!

Why the Wake to Sleep Method works

Each time your child falls asleep, they enter a number of cycle where they range from a deep sleep to waking. By waking your child 30-40 minutes before they usually wake up, you’re interrupting that cycle just before they start to head towards wake up. This means that your child then falls back to the start of the next sleep cycle quickly, and the length of time before they wake again is lengthened. If your child is habitually waking at, for example, 4.45am then waking them before 4.45am and sending them back into a deeper sleep will eliminate that wake up.

I recommend trying this method for at least four nights in order to break the habit.

Keep going …

Because every child is different, and because any kind of gentle sleep training takes time, this method may not always work first time. If you try the Wake to Sleep method and your child still wakes up at the usual time of 4.45am, the chances are that you didn’t quite manage to re-set the cycle enough. Use your gentle sleep training methods to help them back to sleep, and the next night ensure you wake them a little more so that you can properly re-set the cycle. Some children may need to be completely woken up before they can lie back down again to sleep, and others will only need the smallest of nudges. Only you will know what works best for your child.

Be aware that the Wake to Sleep method should not now become your new habit. This is why I recommend you try this for 4 nights (although if your child has been habitually waking for a long time, it may take a little longer) and then give your child opportunity to fall back to sleep and eliminate the wake up by themselves.

As with all habit changes (which, after all, is what sleep training is about) with gentle persistence and a consistent approach, you’ll soon have your little one going through to a far more reasonable hour!

Is your child still struggling to get a quality night’s sleep? Get in touch, I’d love to help!