The key is to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) before bedtime and to increase melatonin (the sleep hormone) before bedtime:
No TV, computer or anything with a bright (blue light) screen for at least an hour before bedtime. Screen light mimics daylight – so keeps the stress hormone going – and prevents the release of the sleep hormone. Getting rid of this screen light, therefore reduces cortisol and allows melatonin to be released.
If your child is waking too early, don’t put her to bed later – try putting her to bed earlier, which will again help to lower the levels of her stress hormone, cortisol.
Try to reduce your child’s stress levels before bed – everything needs to be calm & quiet.
No long hot bath before bed – just a quick warm bath to elevate their temperature. You want to lower your child’s body temperature before she goes to sleep.
Keep her room cool at night, 18 degrees celsius max. This replicates our naturally evolved state of living outside in caves – ie it gets colder as night approaches. This triggers the natural release of melatonin.
Darken the lights an hour before she goes to bed. Her body will get the cue (again like in cave-man times) that night-time is approaching and it will soon be time to sleep. Melatonin will be released. Heavy curtains or drapes can stop very early dawn times in summer from stimulating cortisol production and wakefulness in the very early morning (this can be a problem in countries at a high latitude such as Scandinavian countries, Northern Canada and the UK.
Darkness and sunlight are critical to our sleep and wake rhythm as it stimulates the production and suppression of melatonin. So it’s really important to make sure your child gets outside during the day – especially in the afternoon. The light entering her eyes will help to reset and maintain her body clock with a clear rhythm of night and day.
Make sure your child isn’t hungry. So try giving her a bigger dinner and see if that helps her through. You can also offer foods rich in tryptophan for supper (which is the amino acid that melatonin is made from) such as turkey and porridge.
All of these tricks help increase melatonin and reduce cortisol before going to sleep. This means the levels of these hormones will take longer to cross over. Therefore the time for waking will be delayed.