Kids Waking Earlier During Quarantine? Experts Say It's, Unfortunately, A *Thing*
Apparently, some children didn't get the memo that no school or work means they don't have to wake up nearly as early in the morning. They're rising at the crack of dawn, leaving their frustrated parents to wonder why kids are waking earlier during quarantine. I mean, can't they treat this like summer vacation? Nobody needs to see the sun rise during a pandemic.
But apparently, it's a pretty simple explanation. "Young children may wake earlier because that is how their biological clocks are set," Daniel Lewin, associate director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National tells Romper. Lewin explains that "in very controlled environments with limitations on activities, sleep timing and duration will tend to fall into the pattern that is most optimal based on our deep biological drives." For a teenager, this would look more like late nights and sleeping through the day, but unfortunately with young kids, this means early bedtimes and early wake times.
It feels incredible to not have to set an alarm right now to wake up a full hour before my kiddos do to pack lunches, shower, and get ready for work before I send them off to school. Right now, they're not waking up until they hear me start making my coffee before I hop online for work, but for some parents this just isn't the case. Their kids pop out of bed raring and ready to go not a minute after the morning's first rays of sunlight breach their bedroom window.
"Physical and mental activity are both so good for sleep because these things tire you out. Kids are getting less of both these days and this can negatively impact their sleep," pediatric sleep psychologist Lynelle Schneeberg tells Romper.
In addition to biology and lack of activity, sleep consultant Christine Stevens says your family's change in routine can also cause those pesky early wake-up times. "Since we've all been home and most of us don't have a requirement to get out the door in the morning for work or getting the kids to day care, sleep routines and bedtimes may have slipped, which can affect sleep," Stevens says.
Another reason that kids may be waking up earlier than normal could be due to an increased level of worry and anxiety about the pandemic, Naveed Shah, M.D., with LifeBridge Health Sleep Centers tells Romper. "They may be wondering if they or their family may get the virus, especially if mom or dad is in the healthcare industry."
If your kid isn't old enough to use that extra time in the morning to make and serve you breakfast in bed, their unnecessarily early wake time might be grating on your last nerve. A lack of sleep could also negatively impact their health. But, what can you do to make it stop?
"The best advice would be to keep a child on a structured schedule as much as possible, set limits, and maintain discipline," Dr. Shah says.
Although your child may still wake up early in the morning, getting outside, keeping your kids moving, and staying consistent with your routines can all help kids develop better sleep habits that can help prevent the extra early pre-dawn wake ups. "Good sleep habits really differ very little between our current situation and our prior lives that were filled with activities," Lewin tells Romper.
Additionally, shutting down screen time an hour or more before bedtime is crucial. "Kids are getting much more screen time than usual, which is understandable, but make sure to cut the screens off before bedtime," Stevens says. "The blue light emitted from devices tells our brains that it's time to be awake, just like being outside in the sunshine."
If you don't already have one in place or have let it slide a bit during quarantine, experts agree that a solid bedtime routine and proper bedtime can help tremendously. "Routines are very soothing for a child in a time of upheaval, so focus on the basics: bedtime snack, washing up, teeth brushing, final bathroom trip, and reading together in the child's bed," Schneeberg says.
Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National
Naveed Shah, M.D., LifeBridge Health Sleep Centers
Christine Stevens, children's sleep consultant and owner of Sleep Solutions by Christine