Tactics for Catching a Few More Zs in the Morning When you have Kids
Four strategies for getting more sleep because with kids even 30 minutes more can do wonders.
I kicked my daughter in the face.
Not on purpose, mind you. Nor for any reason that would require calling child services.
So before you let your imagination run wild, here’s the story: My beautiful, wonderful, four-year-old girl, bless her sweet little heart, decided it would be fun to tickle Dad’s feet at 5:45 in the morning on a Saturday, knowing full well (1) my irrational fear of spiders/general disdain for all things creepy-crawly, and (2) how much I absolutely love being tickled, especially as a method of waking.
In my defense, it wasn’t really a kick to the face. It was more of an unintentional wobbly nudge to the side of the head that had just enough “kick” to it to knock her off the bed. Again, I’ll stress “unintentional” and “not fully conscious.”
Have you ever seen a person get tasered? If not, don’t try it; look it up on YouTube instead. There are about three or four erratic seconds where the receiver convulses before their muscles lock up and they keel over, out cold. That’s what I’m sure I looked like, but in reverse.
Don’t worry: she’s fine. And my wife has made sure that I continue to make it up to her.
My point is this: waking up too early sucks—or it can, and quite often happens when you have young kids. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so here is my list of unconventional tactics that I’ve tried to avoid getting woken up too early.
1. Line the hallway with toys
Nothing helps you sleep longer than a good diversion tactic. And nothing distracts a child more than a bunch of toys, especially when those toys are not where they’re supposed to be.
Be careful not to create walking hazards, though. You might have to get up in the middle of the night for some reason, and the last thing you want is to end up with “Lego foot” or a broken neck, with no one to blame but yourself.
Also, make sure to avoid toys that make sounds, such as the infamous “Tickle Me Elmo,” those miniature animal-shaped plastic versions of guitars, etc. I was dumb enough to make that mistake once: we ended up waking to a rock concert at 6 in the morning. (Thanks, Mattel.)
My four-year-old girl decided it would be fun to tickle Dad’s feet at 5:45 in the morning on a Saturday.
If all goes well, you should get about 10 to 15 minutes of extra sleep time. Which, I know, is not much, but it’s something. And it’s not very hard to clean up the mess afterward.
The downside to this tactic is that your precious kids might end up using the toys as door knockers, which I guarantee is louder than their knuckles (if you’ve trained them to knock at all). You might also end up waking with a toy in your face if they want to show you that all their toys magically ended up all over the hallway.
“Yes, we do we have little elves that come at night and move toys around? And if you don’t let me sleep longer, those elves might just take those toys, and you’ll never see them again.”
2. Put a countdown clock outside your door
Pretty self-explanatory, right? And it works great, as long as you have kids that respect the all-powerful clock.
In order for this to work, you have to build the hype. Teach them how countdowns work, if they don’t already know, by putting your countdown device next to the oven when you’re baking cookies, or watch some spaceship countdowns on the Internet. Make it fun and rewarding so that they’ll be into it when they see it outside your bedroom door in the morning.
You will have to explain that they are not allowed to come in until the buzzer goes off. You can’t assume that they’ll just know that. They’re not your employees, you know. And you might have to let them wake you up first a few times, prod them out, set the clock for another 20 or 30 minutes, and remind them how it works until they get it.
Also, you’ll need to buy something with HUGE digits so that they actually SEE it outside your door. Typically, if it’s not a toy, and it’s not extremely obvious, it just won’t register with them. I recommend the “EC VISION Large Big Number Jumbo LED snooze wall desk Alarm clock countdown timer with calendar.” This tactic might be a good one to use alongside the previous one.
3. Leave a treasure map on your door
Ah, the good ol‘ treasure hunt tactic. This one takes a little bit of planning. And your kids have to be old and smart enough to figure it out.
It’s simple enough: Take a big posterboard, make a bird’s-eye view of your home, and draw dotted lines all over the place. Have them pick things up along the way and end up back at your door, preferably 15 or 25 minutes later.
Don’t make it too complicated, though. They will simply ignore it. And this might only work once, unless you have the time to make a new treasure map every weekend, which, let’s be real?
4. Instigate a mandatory snuggle period
Kids love snuggles. And so do parents, especially when those snuggles lead to more sleep time for both kid and parent.
It’s a 50/50 shot. You might end up drifting off with the greatest joy of your life curled up in a ball inside your arms, or you might end up as a platform for a new dance routine. Either way, showing your kids you want to snuggle shows them that you love them. They don’t have to know it’s because you’re trying to knock them out again.
Listen, I know all these things are a little ridiculous, but if you’re like me, and you like your sleep, you might want to try them out at least once. You never know. I’ve found that an extra 30 minutes to myself in the morning can do wonders for my day. Maybe it will make a difference for you, too.
Good luck, fellow sleeper. And if you have some crazy, ingenious methods for a few extra Z’s, let us know in the comments.
Jason is a writer, marketing strategist, and professional dad. He lives with his wife and three kids in Vineyard, UT.