Retrieved March 27, 2011 from http://hilltownfamilies.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/bobnar-19/
Just look at this peaceful face: it's every parent's dream! There are a multitude of ways that our families can be robbed of sleep. Today I'm going to talk about the problem of waking too early.
One thing that we have struggled with is helping Jack to stay in his room until 7:00 am. The light outside changes week after week and it's hard for little kids to know when it's time to get up. Particularly if they are using the bathroom now, their bodies often wake them up early. They'll get up and go to the bathroom - this is a good thing! - but then have trouble getting themselves settled again.
The only way that I can think of to help Jack settle back to sleep is to remind him that even though his body wakes him up in the middle of the night, he can still go back to bed and get some more sleep. He doesn't have to stay up once he gets up. Ultimately though, I have no control over whether he goes back to sleep or not. That's his choice.
What I can do is help him to know when he can come out of his room and start his day with me. Around here that happens at 7:00, so all I have to do is help him to know when that is. He has a clock on the wall in his room and he's learning how to use it. It's typically dark in his room though, so he can't easily read his analog clock in the early hours of the morning.
One idea is to give your child a digital alarm clock. If you decide to go this route, the experts at Parenting Power suggest you cover up the extra two digits. That way your child will see only the change that you want them to see, for example from 6 am to 7 am, and not be distracted by the other numbers that don't mean much to them right now. We've decided against the digital alarm clock because we don't want to bombard our son with neon light throughout his sleep, and because frankly I find most alarm clocks to be offensive. I hate being woken up by some beep, clang or other annoying sound. I do have an alarm clock, but it's one of those lovely ones that wakes you up slowly with light.
But back to Jack. What we DID do that has worked like a charm, is to buy him this product: Good Nite Lite. This handy little nightlight has a moon setting for nighttime and a sun setting for the morning. You can, if you wish, leave the moon on all night. I find it to be too bright, even at its dimmed setting. We set the PM time for the moon light to one minute before the AM time for the sun light. The moon lights up at 6:59, and the Sun lights up at 7:00.
This product is not perfect. I'd rather it had the option for the moon to not come on at all, or to have it stay on at a much lower light level. Even dimmed it is brighter than most night lights. I'd also rather the sun didn't stay on as long as it does - I think it stays lit up for two hours which seems unnecessary to me as light from the window has spilled into the room long before then. I've mentioned these things to the owner of the company. Perhaps a future version will be more customizable.
Despite these minor annoyances, we have found it to work consistently well. We have told Jack, and he now knows, that he is to stay in his room until the sun comes on. Once the sun lights up, he can come out of his room (he can also leave to go to the bathroom at any time but knows to go right back to his room when he is done). Every day - for something like a year now - he has come out of his room in the morning saying cheerfully, "The sun is out! It's time to get up!" I don't even need an alarm anymore, unless I want to get anything done in which case I need to get up an hour earlier than Jack.... but that's another post.
Please note that my ramblings should not be substituted for the advice of a professional - I am only qualified to speak about my experiences with my son - however, I do hope that reading about what we have done is of some help to you. Sleep well!