Sleep: When kids wake up too early

Susan Goldberg enjoys an extra hour of snooze time thanks to her family's new sleep trick.

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OK to Wake! clock. Photo: Susan Goldberg

Thunder Bay, Ont. writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

Isaac has never been a particularly consistent sleeper. He’s always gone in cycles: weeks or even months where he sleeps through the night, and then weeks or months where he’s up once or twice to visit us in the wee hours of the morning. Usually he wants some company, ideally in the form of cuddling up with one or both of his moms for the remainder of the night. (This, of course, doesn’t count the year-and-a-half where, between the ages of three and five, he slept on a mattress next to our bed before we finally, although somewhat unsuccessfully, kicked him out of our room.)

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Most of the time, Isaac heads directly for Rachel’s side of the bed. And with good reason. She’s much more likely to wake up than I am (I sleep with earplugs) and also much more likely to stumble agreeably back to Isaac’s room with him and sleep there. (I, on the other hand, don’t tend to fall back asleep once I’m woken and am consequently grouchier and therefore less approachable at three in the morning) Mostly, that’s fine, but being woken up for nights on end eventually catches up with both of us, and we implore our six-year-old just to stay in his own bed for the night.

“What if there’s a fire?” he’ll ask, mock-seriously.

“If there’s a fire, you can come and get us. But there won’t be a fire.”

“What if there’s a robber?”

“Then come and get us. But there won’t be a robber.”

“What if I throw up?”

“Then come get us. But you won’t throw up.”

“What if—?”

“Isaac, just stay in your own bed. We need our sleep.”

In the last couple of months, his MO has been to arrive in our room, ostensibly ready to get up for the day, at 5:30 a.m. This completely sucks, not only because, well, it’s 5:30 a.m., but because then he’s tired and grumpy by dinnertime. As are we.

We’ve tried different ways of getting him to stay in his bed, like this:

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Photo: Susan Goldberg

But we haven’t had much luck: he pleads ignorance when it comes to reading numbers on a clock. We could set an alarm for him for the earliest he can wake us, but then we’d actually wake him on the rare days when he might actually sleep till, say, 7:00 a.m.

And who wants to do that?

So, last week, I finally decided to shell out for the OK to Wake! clock by Onaroo. It’s quite ingenious: instead of an alarm going off, the clock lights up softly when it’s OK for your kid to come get you. (You can also set an alarm to go off at a later time.)

We explained the concept to a somewhat dubious Isaac: when the clock glows green (we set it to do that at 6:45 a.m.), you can come into our room. And not a minute before. (“But what if there’s a robber?”)

And then we crossed our fingers.

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At 6:46 a.m. the next morning, our bedroom door opened, and a child entered, his angelic face lit up by a softly glowing green light. We high-fived, and he climbed into bed to cuddle with us for a few minutes. The same thing happened the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. And then, yesterday, he didn’t show up until 7:00 a.m. “I just read in my bed and I didn’t even notice that my clock was glowing,” he said. “And who are you and what have you done with my son?” I asked him.

I have no idea if this will last, but for now I am loving this clock. More to the point, loving my extra hour and a half of sleep each morning. Let’s hope it lasts.

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