The Wake Up Routine That Helps Your Child Sleep at Night

guest post by: Jenni June, Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, Lactation Counselor, and Mom of 4!

Did you know that your child’s wake up and morning routine could go a long way in helping them sleep better at night?

Making a clear distinction between winding down for sleep and how they wake up aids their hormones in programming their internal body clock to become more regular and in alignment with their natural biological rhythms. It also makes the beginning and the end of your day as a family much more pleasant and productive, since your child’s sleep hormones will be on autopilot, signaling to your child’s brain and body in advance, making your job much easier with regards to your pre-­sleep routines and independent sleep onset later at night for them.

Here’s a routine I like to recommend to my clients with babies and toddlers:
First, it’s important that you, the parent, establish the “family wake up time”.  If the child is allowed to lead this, you may be up before the roosters. We want to set this time to work with what is healthy and natural both for our bodies and for our children’s.

Research shows that when core body temperatures rise, melatonin dissipates and we begin producing wakefulness hormones. The optimal time is anywhere between 6am and 7am in the morning.

If your child’s sleep is currently poor at night, thus negatively affecting yours, then resisting the urge to sleep past 6-­‐7 AM and getting up instead to start your day may feel dreadful to you at first. Nevertheless, it is important to start somewhere, and if you feel beginning with night sleep habits is a harder place to begin to repair things, start at the beginning of the day, instead.

Go into your child and announce that it is morning and time for the family to get up and have a wonderful new day! I loved singing a fun cheery (often made-­‐up and goofy) wake up song to my own four kiddos. It put us all in a good mood to sing, laugh and smile as little feet hit the ground or the babies opened their eyes. 

Now, this next piece of advice is what I believe to be an important change and keystone habit to set in place for families who were previously not “morning people”, and that is, while greeting and singing your morning wake up song to your child, place them on the changing table for a dry diaper and get those jammies off and get the dressed for the day right away.  It helps signal to get in step with wakefulness hormones, making unwinding and putting jammies on at the end of the day an even stronger signal to the brain and body to start producing those powerful sleep hormones.  (Here’s another tip: If clothes are laid out for the day in advance, it only takes about 3 minutes to get this accomplished.)

After that, take them immediately to the breakfast room, or where your baby sees the family take their meals, open the blinds or drapes, and provide the morning breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or solid food meal facing the window, where your child can eat while watching the early morning rising sun. Even just allowing the eye to see the faint blue hue of early dawn, can make huge improvements in fostering their circadian rhythms. This blue light only emanates from the early morning rising sun. When the eye catches this, it sends a signal to the brain to start producing more wake up hormones. This enhances the opposite effect, later at night, when you begin closing the drapes and gradually dimming the lights during your bedtime routine, signaling to the brain to start producing those powerful sleep hormones
(melatonin).

Now that your child has eaten and is dressed for the day, get them outside for what I like to call, “nature walk time”. Say good morning to the bugs, collect a few different shapes of leaves or chirp right alongside the birdies, and talk about what you will do that day. Twenty to thirty minutes together out in these safer, early morning rays of the sun will help your child receive the important benefits of vitamin D. This natural source is far more absorbable than a synthetic supplement. Vitamin D helps protect your child’s iron stores. If iron levels are low, it often negatively impacts sleep at night.

This simple 45 to 60 minute wake up routine helps ensure your child will sleep better that night, and it also allows working parents to give their little ones the first and best part of their day, before everyone is distracted or overtired, by keeping the children up too late to get this quality time in, when you get home.

So remember, great beginnings contribute to happy endings when it comes to sleep wellness for the entire family!