Why do babies wake up so early

Everyday family life in the corona crisis

The internal clock
Every person has a circadian rhythm (Winfree) according to which the most varied of body functions take place. Sleeping and waking are also part of these body functions. Circadian comes from Latin and is made up of circa (= approximately) and this (= day). This means that we humans have an inner daily rhythm that only roughly corresponds to the natural 24-hour day. In the first two years of life, it becomes increasingly clear how this rhythm is set in one's own child, how its internal clock works. In some people, and therefore also in babies, this internal clock is identical to the external 24-hour rhythm. These babies are very punctual when it comes to sleeping or eating. They usually find their rhythm without much parental intervention.

The majority of people, however, belong to the so-called evening types or morning grouch. Your internal clock is slower. They have a circadian rhythm longer than 24 hours. As a result, they are still alert in the evening and could stay up longer, but in the morning they find it difficult to get out of bed and it takes a while to get going. This rhythm is already visible in babies and especially in toddlers. These babies find it harder to sleep in the evening, and have more irregular times when eating, etc. If you only let them go at their own pace, they constantly shift all times a little bit forward. After getting to know each other for about 3 months, you need your parents to act as external timers in order to coordinate your internal clock with our natural 24-hour rhythm.

In turn, a small proportion of people, and thus also babies, have a shorter circadian rhythm. These are the morning people or early risers. These babies fall asleep early in the evening and are easy to calm down. However, you are often awake again very early and think that the day has long since begun. Babies are therefore different, some find their daily rhythm from around 3 months on by themselves. Parents usually describe them as babies that are very easy to care for. Others, on the other hand, rely on the support of their parents through a regular daily structure in order to find a rhythm for sleeping, eating, etc.

People who sleep a lot and those who don't sleep well exist from birth
The need for sleep is not related to the circadian rhythm. In babies, the need for sleep in the first year of life changes from 12 to 18 hours with three months to 12, to 16 ½ hours with a year. Babies therefore sleep for different lengths of time and also reduce their need for sleep in the course of the first year of life. You can tell whether a baby is getting enough sleep by watching them while they are awake. Well-rested babies are satisfied and, depending on their age, are interested in their surroundings.

Sleep through the night