How To Stop Your Toddler from Waking at 5 am Everyday

What to do when your toddler wakes up too early- 5 essential steps5 am wakings. They have to be the worst part of parenting a toddler, right?

I remember the pain of early risings like it was yesterday. My daughter was 18 months and suddenly started waking at 5 am, ready to start the day. 

Like any exhausted parent desperate for just 20 more minutes of shut-eye, I took her into the living room and turned on cartoons. [Warning- NEVER do this!]

You can imagine what happened next… Every single day after that, she woke at 5 am yelling “Buddies!” (Her word for cartoons. Super cute, but not at 5 am.)

I quickly realized that her early wakings had become a habit that wasn’t going to stop on its own. I needed a strategy to get her sleeping later ASAP.

Admittedly, I am a “morning person.” But more like a “7 am morning person.” No amount of coffee can make waking at 5 am feel good. Given the volume of emails I get with the subject “Help! My toddler is waking too early!”  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way.

Are you trapped in “toddler waking up too early” hell right now? I bet you’ve tried it all- move bedtime later, then earlier- but still your child continues waking at 5 am calling for you. 

Maybe it started after the time change or a vacation. And like me, you fell into the habit of starting your day way too early. Now you realize it’s a dreadful habit that needs to be stopped, but you have no idea how to do it!

Well, I’m happy to report that my toddler’s early risings were stopped pretty quickly just by changing around a few aspects of her sleep routine. In less than a week, she was sleeping until 7 am! Later mornings = happy mama.

These tips haven’t just helped my daughter. I’ve been sharing them with exhausted parents for several years and they work! You too can stop your toddler waking every morning at 5 am when you do the following 5 steps:

Stop your toddler’s 5 am wakings with these 5 steps

  1. Black out the bedroom
  2. Play white noise all night long.
  3. Give your toddler an appropriate bedtime
  4. Get your toddler sleeping through the night
  5. Limit nap time

Step 1: Black out your toddler’s bedroom

Light is a strong environmental cue that helps to set our body clock. When our eyes sense light, it sends a signal to our brain that we should be awake. (And when our eyes sense darkness, melatonin is produced which makes us sleepy.)

This is especially true for babies and children. If even a small amount of light is entering your toddler’s bedroom, it could be causing her to wake too early.

One of the first tips I give parents is to black out their child’s bedroom. You could DIY this and use cardboard or aluminum foil (easily hidden under curtains.) Or you can hang blackout curtains, like the ones I show below. (Although I have to admit, they’re not always 100% blackout and many parents end up putting cardboard under them…)

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten with the subject “He slept until 7 am!” after only one night with a blacked out bedroom. Trust me and do this tonight!

Blackout Curtains

Click to order on

Step 2: Play white noise all night long

White noise has been proven to help babies sleep easier. The reason why it’s so effective is that it blocks sudden noises from waking your child.

The hours of 4-6 am are usually the lightest phase of sleep. If a sudden noise (like the garbage man or a barking dog) wakes your toddler at this time, it can be difficult for her to fall back asleep. She’s already gotten 8+ hours of sleep, so she may not feel tired enough to fall back asleep. 

The best way to handle this is to prevent noises from waking your child in the first place. [Big Hint] Play white noise all night long.

White Noise Favorites

Click to order on

Munchkin Nursery Projector & Sound Machine

Hatch Baby Sound Machine

SoundBub Portable White Noise

Step 3: Give your toddler an appropriate bedtime

Research shows that a consistent and age-appropriate bedtime leads to longer sleep, less aggression and better attention in children. (Wow! Just from the right bedtime?!)

Children’s body clocks are naturally programmed for early bedtimes. When you work with your toddler’s body clock, and give her an age-appropriate bedtime, your child will sleep better overnight. This typically means she’ll wake less often at night and sleep later in the morning.

This may seem counterintuitive, I get it. But time and again, I’ve seen this work with hundreds of children! If your toddler is consistently waking too early in the morning, move bedtime earlier. Once you find your toddler’s bedtime “sweet spot” she’ll naturally sleep better at night.

Check out my recommended bedtime guide from my free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit.

here's a chart for age-appropriate bedtimes for your child as she grows

Step 4: Get your toddler sleeping through the night

Over-tired children sleep worse than well-rested children. (Another crazy and counterintuitive aspect of toddler sleep.)

If your toddler is waking throughout the night, and not getting the long, restful sleep that she needs, chances are she’ll become over-tired. But rather than snoozing until 8 am, over-tiredness often makes kids wake early in the morning.

When toddlers don’t get enough sleep, their systems become over-stimulated, which makes them sleep lightly and wake often.

Your toddler will sleep deeper and longer once she’s sleeping the whole night through. When teaching children to sleep well, we always begin at bedtime. Once you get your toddler easily falling asleep on her own at bedtime, she’ll be set up to sleep through the night. My free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit walks you through this process. It’s the best place to start if you’re ready to get your toddler sleeping all night.

Step 5: Limit nap time

Most 1 year-olds can nap 2-3 hours during the day and still sleep well at night. However, once your toddler turns 2, sleep needs begin to change.

Specifically, naps may begin interfering with night sleep if they’re too long.

I recommend you adjust naps only after doing my first four steps above. It’s the final tweak we make to help toddlers sleep later in the morning, and it only works when your toddler falls asleep on his own at an age-appropriate bedtime, and sleeps all night in a blacked out bedroom with white noise.

Does this describe your toddler’s sleep? If so, follow these nap-limiting guidelines:

Nap Length According to Age
(taken from my naps program)

• 2 years old: 2 hrs

• 2.5 years old: 1.5 hrs

• 3 years old: 1 hr

Related: Is your toddler fighting nap time? Find out when toddlers can stop napping here.


Starting your day at 5 am with a tired toddler is exhausting for everyone. Rest assured, you can get your toddler waking later every morning by making a few changes to her sleep routine. Make sure your toddler’s bedroom is blacked out and has white noise. Give your toddler an appropriate bedtime, ensuring she’s able to sleep all night long. As a final step, trim down nap times, if needed.

These 5 steps work together to help your child sleep deeper and longer. Once you’ve implemented these changes, your toddler will sleep through the dreaded early hours. And you’ll both wake at a more acceptable hour. Every parent’s dream!

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