July 02, 2015

Q: My 2-and-a-half-year-old normally sleeps between 10-11 hours a night and naps for 1.5 hours in the day. Lately, he has been waking up earlier (only getting 10 hours of sleep) and he has been acting so fussy, grumpy, and sleepy during the morning hours. If allowed, he will fall asleep on the couch at 11:30 am. We thought it was a growth spurt at first, but it has been going on for weeks now. He seems super irritable.  Is there something wrong with him?

A: You can check with your doctor to make sure that nothing is going on or that he is in pain.  However, I suspect that the early waking has become a habit and it is contributing to his morning sleepiness and fussiness.  To encourage him to sleep later in the morning, set up a “good morning light,” which is simply a nightlight on a lamp timer.  Set the light to turn on for his previous wake time.  Let him know that he needs to stay in bed until the "good morning light" turns on.  After a few days, he will get the message and it will encourage him to go back to sleep a little bit longer.

Answered by Dr. Jodi Mindell