2 year old consistently wakes at 4am for the day. Tried everything, what am I doing wrong??

(56 Posts)
Swaddleblanket Mon 28-Dec-20 05:45:06

2 year old (25 months) wakes every morning around 4am without fail and has done for as long as I can remember.

I have tried everything, early bedtime, late bedtime, completely dark room, milk before bed, no milk before bed, short nap, long nap, 2 naps.

I am so tired and so is my little one.

He goes to sleep on his own quite well at night and rarely wakes up in the night, sometimes once.

His room is completely dark we have a blackout window sticker.

We have tried leaving him to cry whilst we lie next to him at 4 to teach him it’s not the morning as 4am feels like a habit, but he gets completely hysterical and has climbed out of the cot a few times when we leave him.

What am I doing wrong?

Any tips or schedules to try - I just don’t know what I’m missing.

OP’s posts: |
WartyWorry Mon 28-Dec-20 05:51:22

Will he go back to sleep if you bring him into bed with you? Not ideal but whatever gets you the most sleep is my motto

Swaddleblanket Mon 28-Dec-20 05:56:37

No he won’t, he is very much awake and will lie in our bed sometimes but won’t sleep, most of the time he refuses to get in our bed and wants to go downstairs

OP’s posts: |
Pumpertrumper Mon 28-Dec-20 05:57:51

My nearly 10 month old has fallen into this pattern.
Down every night between 6-7pm and up every morning between 4-5 am.

I tried everything nothing works.
I’ve given up and started going to bed at 8-9pm myself. It does work, I’m much less exhausted.

inquietant Mon 28-Dec-20 05:58:04

I don't think you're doing anything wrong!

What does he do when waking at 4 - do you start breakfast, or playing, or TV?

Also what would he do if you tried to get him to sleep in your bed from 4am?

Jaffajiffy Mon 28-Dec-20 05:58:56

Both my boys did this at that age. It was hell. We tried everything and then just went with it. My partner and I took it in turns to do the 4-6 slot then back to bed. I don’t know why they do it. It took about 3 months to get past 5am.

smeerf Mon 28-Dec-20 06:00:44

Winter is a good time to tackle this as it's dark outside until later. If he's 2, he's old enough to understand the Gro Clock and the fact that it's not morning yet ("see James, it's dark outside still! Everyone is sleeping!"). I'm not sure what would be the best strategy - just setting the clock to 6:30 from day one, or gradually moving it later day by day (4:15, 4:30, 4:45 etc) - maybe the former with the latter as a back up plan. If he's up at 4 every day it's a really ingrained habit so i would definitely go and lie down with him and sooth him but if you give in when he cries and take him downstairs, it's just teaching him that he should keep crying until you give in.

It sounds like you haven't taken the sides off the cot yet. Have you considered this? We child proofed the room (furniture attached to walls etc), took the sides off and put a stair gate on the door. That was when he woke up, he didn't feel trapped and he stopped waking up crying. Would you mind if he woke up and pottered around his room at 4am?


Swaddleblanket Mon 28-Dec-20 06:09:45

At 4 we now give him an iPad in our bed or take him down to watch tv or play. It does feel like it’s a habit but I just don’t know how to get out of it. He is very strong willed, I know toddlers are but if he doesn’t want to stay in his cot then he will do anything he can to get out, scream, hyperventilate, climb out.

He wakes up crying most of the time and only stops if we pick him up. Actually only if I pick him up, his dad can rarely settle him because he only wants me.

He doesn’t say many words yet although he understands everything so feels like he might not be ready for the gro clock. Can give it a try though.

Just don’t know how to get him out of the habit because he loses his mind if we leave him and gets so worked up it feels awful to leave him and in the moment doesn’t feel like we will achieve anything. But maybe I should persist?

OP’s posts: |
inquietant Mon 28-Dec-20 06:19:13

You are suggesting only two options - not going to him at all or putting on TV/iPad?

I would get him but be very boring in the hope it eventually wears off. Definitely no TV or iPad.

It sounds like he really needs a cuddle though.

PurpleWave Mon 28-Dec-20 06:26:22

I've been having the same problem with my almost 3 year old for months and months. He wakes anytime after 3.30am and is up for the day. It's absolute hell but I can't seem to fix it. We've tried keeping the room warmer or cooler, darker or lighter, etc, I've run out of ideas at this point.
This also then leads onto problems later in the afternoon as he won't nap most days and is hysterically tired by 4-5pm some days.
We live in a terraced house so we can't leave him to cry because he just gets louder and louder.
No advice but sympathy from someone going through the same.

laudemio Mon 28-Dec-20 06:33:52

Drop the daytime nap? Or limit it to 20mins max

FudgeSundae Mon 28-Dec-20 07:03:15


Drop the daytime nap? Or limit it to 20mins max

Agree with this. He’s clearly getting too much sleep at some other point in the day - look at cutting/limiting daytime nap and/or later bedtime.

Timeturnerplease Mon 28-Dec-20 07:21:28

Also 25mo here and has a default setting of 4.30am! Tried everything, and the Gro Clock was the winner. She now wakes at about 5.30ish but plays in her cot until the ‘sun comes up’ at 6.

I don’t know how much impact the nap has; hers was only ever 20-30mins a day from 12 months on (she HATES napping, always has), and she dropped it naturally herself about a month before she turned 2.

SpeckledyHen Mon 28-Dec-20 07:26:46

I still wake at 0420 every day 20 years later thanks to my dearest second born .

He sleeps like a log as he has done since he stared at school at 5 and got really tired .


movingonup20 Mon 28-Dec-20 07:29:46

The long term solution is to increase bedtime and leave in bed by 15 mins per day, gradual is key. But first I would check there isn't anything causing him to stir at that time eg heating system/pipes making a noise coming on?

The alternative is to keep up later for a few days and resist allowing long naps. - 1 90 min nap per day should be sufficient based on my experience at that age. Remember if they have had enough sleep as per their pattern they wake, it's hard changing the pattern but after a few days it's so much better, we flew long haul a lot at that age so had to do it a lot

itsgettingweird Mon 28-Dec-20 07:32:13

At that age I'd say transfer to proper bed.

It's normal for children this age to hate being in a cot. They are awake and want to get out.

With a bed you can go in and say "it's nighttime" and either lay next to him, do the out to to bed and repeat "nighttime" or simply make sure the room is safe with stair gate and he can play with a toy and hopefully learn to fall back to sleep.

iPad and tv aren't recommended as they have blue light which activates brain.

You'll still need to be awake and I'd suggest a video monitor but it teaches them dark means bedroom. Means nighttime. Means stay in bedroom.

InTheLongGrass Mon 28-Dec-20 07:34:30

What time does he go to bed, and how much napping does he have?

My horrendous sleeper wasnt napping at that age - and was also in a bed, because he could climb out of his cot. We were well known by the guy who unlocked that park gates at 6am.
*push dinner and bedtime back by an hour
*go to bed crazy early yourself so you arent as tired
*make the time between 4.30 and 6 as boring as possible without getting him to the point of crying. Absolutely no screens.
*take the sides off the cot, put some safe toys in his room, get a grow clock set to 5am, and tell him he can come wake you then. Push the clock by 15 mins once he has 5am sorted. This might not work straight away.

Dont try and get too a late get up - accept a time like 6am as the best it's going to be, and expect weekends to be the same.
We are years down the line, he still wakes about 5.30 everyday. The rules are no lights til 6am. No waking anyone else til 7am. But it's taken YEARS to get to 7am starts and then I got a job that means I need to be out of the house by 7.30

rottiemum88 Mon 28-Dec-20 07:36:49


At that age I'd say transfer to proper bed.

It's normal for children this age to hate being in a cot. They are awake and want to get out.

With a bed you can go in and say "it's nighttime" and either lay next to him, do the out to to bed and repeat "nighttime" or simply make sure the room is safe with stair gate and he can play with a toy and hopefully learn to fall back to sleep.

iPad and tv aren't recommended as they have blue light which activates brain.

You'll still need to be awake and I'd suggest a video monitor but it teaches them dark means bedroom. Means nighttime. Means stay in bedroom.

This. You need to make it so the place he's forced to stay doesn't feel like prison. If there are a few safe toys around, he can learn to entertain himself for a while until it's actually time to get up. (Note - DS is a similar age and also mostly non verbal still, but he got the concept of the GroClock really quickly).

Also, I know you said the room is completely dark and that's generally recommended, but not all children like it. Even as an adult I prefer background noise and a nightlight. Have you tried one? Maybe even a little radio on low?

Indecisivelurcher Mon 28-Dec-20 07:38:01

Hi OP, that's tough. Some kids are set on early, but 4am is definitely still night so you need to treat this like a night waking. No ipad!!!

You say you've tried everything. How long did you try things for? You need to pick something and stick to it for 2wks to give it time to make a difference. Be consistent.

I would suggest check your little one is getting enough sleep. Should be hitting 12-14hrs in a 24hr period. Not getting enough sleep can lead to sleep deprivation and running up a sleep debt, which can mean the body releases stress hormones cortisol which can contribute to an early wake up and being upset.

I am in the early bed camp!!! If your little one is up at 4, bedtime ought to be 5pm! I'm not joking. At least 11hrs in bed for night. If you did that for 2wks, you could then start creeping the timings forward slowly.

theantsgomarchin Mon 28-Dec-20 07:42:45

I've worked with children for a very long time and it's very common for this to happen, usually from around 15 months but sometimes later. As children become more aware of their surroundings, when they wake in the early hours (4am, 5am) they realise it's "morning" and want to get up. The only way to fix it in my experience is either a gro clock (although I actually don't recommend these as they stop working eventually) but better yet a lamp and a Sufi timer plug that you activate from your phone.

Get a lamp that he is interested in (paw patrol?) or a plain white lamp that he can help you decorate with his favourite stickers. Get him involved so he actively pays attention to the lamp. At night when he goes to bed, make a big fuss of saying goodnight to the lamp. Night night lamp, see you in the morning etc. Then turn off the lamp using your phone without him seeing. When he wakes in the morning, you must go in quietly, don't pick him up and just explain "*shh shh lamp is sleeping, you're going to wake lamp up!!!* and leave. And you have to leave him at this point even if he starts getting cross as he needs to learn that mummy won't come in and acknowledge me until my lamp comes on. If he doesn't calm down, go back in "shh shh" etc. And leave again. Continue this until you think he's waited long enough but I'd never recommend before 6am. Anything before 6 is night time. Once you decide he can get up, turn on the lamp from your phone and go straight in and do a big happy wake up. YAYYYYY your lamp is awake good boy you waited for your lamp. (Even if he didn't!) eventually he will start to realise that mummy doesn't come in until lamp wakes up, and when he stirs in the early hours he will briefly open his eyes, realise the lamp isn't on and go back to sleep. The reason I don't recommend the glo clock is because they have to actively look at the clock to know if it's morning, so they stir at 4am and look at the clock, at which point they're awake and unlikely to go back off. The lamp allows them to know immediately when stirring if it's on or off. It'll take about a week to work. Maybe 10 days as he's waking super early.

This works from around 15m old, they don't need to understand what you're saying the visual aid is all that's necessary.

theantsgomarchin Mon 28-Dec-20 07:44:08

*wifi (not Sufi!)

ForChristsSake Mon 28-Dec-20 07:46:00

Can you post your current schedule, nap times, bed time etc

sameday2021 Mon 28-Dec-20 08:00:27

I'm so sorry to tell you this but only improved for us once DS had been at school for several months, so age 5. The walking to and from school, lots of outdoor time, and the learning really ramping up, no tv time, lots of playtime seemed to do the trick in the end.

I heard a mum on YouTube (with 10 kids!) yesterday say she believes hers slept well as they did SO much through the day. He could be very bright and bright kids need SO much stimulation, activity and exercise (mental and physical) throughout the day.

Is he definitely going to sleep without any props at bedtime? That also really helped our situation.

DarkGreen Mon 28-Dec-20 08:01:03

4am wake up
4-5 ish in our bed with ipad
5am downstairs, tv, snack and milk
6ish breakfast but doesn't eat this usually
8.30-9ish - 20 to 30 min car or cot nap if cot then he has a bottle of milk before
12 lunch
1.30ish - bottle and nap
3.30 wakes up
3.45 milk and snack
5.30 dinner time
7pm bath
7.20 milk and into cot
Usually asleep by 8pm most of the time between 7.30-7.45

Or we don't give him a morning nap and he has a nap at 11.30/12ish for upto 2.5 hours, average is about 2 hours

DarkGreen Mon 28-Dec-20 08:02:16

Posted on my laptop there under an old name but that is me and our schedule

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