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Ask Kelly: Sleeping

No matter what time I put our two-year-old to bed, he wakes up at 5:30 am. He still takes a one-and-a-half-hour nap each day. What can we do to get a little more sleep in the morning?

Napping ToddlerYou are not the only person with sleep-related questions. Bookstores offer a larger variety of sleep books than almost any other parenting topic. The average two-year-old needs 10-13 hours of sleep at night and will take a nap that lasts 1-2 hours. Since we know your son is napping for 1 ½ hours, he needs another 10-11 hours of sleep. If he is going to bed at 7 pm, eleven hours later is only 6 am. You may need to push his bedtime off a bit later to help improve the wake-up time.

Could your child be teething? Teething discomfort can awaken children at this age. This is also the beginning of active dreaming for toddlers. Have you tried telling your child that it is still sleep time, consoling him, and putting him back to bed? When it is time to wake up, you can go into his room and “celebrate morning.” Greet the sunshine, tell him it is now time to wake up and go into the main living space.

A simple issue for many children is that the light from the outside is a signal to wake up. Make sure your son’s bedroom stays dark, with no light or bird noises to greet him too early. Other wake-up signals such as hunger might be kicking in, or he may need to urinate and that is what wakes him up in the morning. To clear off early morning hunger, give him a high-carbohydrate, low-sugar snack before bed, and limit liquids. Also, make sure that your most active portion of the day is late afternoon so he is exhausted at bedtime. About 10 to 15 percent of the population are just early risers, so if you can’t beat them, join them and try going to bed earlier yourself. You just might end up enjoying the early morning hours as well!

Kelly LaChance-Guertin BA, CCE, CD (DONA), CLC, has been a birth and postpartum doula for the past five years. She is currently a certified birth doula through DONA (Doulas of North America) and a certified childbirth educator. As the co-owner of Bellani Maternity and the mother of two, she experiences first-hand the struggle of balancing work and family, as well as the realities of raising children. Visit to learn more about Kelly’s one-stop resource for pregnancy and parenting.

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1 comment
  • “To clear off early morning hunger, give him a high-carbohydrate, low-sugar snack before bed,[…]”
    I would think that’s an unhealthy idea, that carries the associated risk of making a child gain weight for no good reason. I’m not a nutritional expert and would be curious to hear about this tip you provide. However, based on my personal family experiences (my kids now, and my own childhood) and my French cultural/culinary heritage, I believe that a child should eat a good, balanced dinner at a reasonable time in the evening, and stop at that — no snacks of any type before bedtime. A mellow activity is best after dinner to avoid the child getting “hungry” again (and overtired, too.)