Q & A: Do I Need to Wake Up Early?

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Being a mom is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life, but it can also be incredibly exhausting, and very often you may feel sleep deprived. With so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s no wonder that many moms struggle to get the rest they need to feel refreshed and energized. Today I’m answering a reader’s question about getting up earlier than your kids when really you just need sleep.

Mama Needs Sleep! | A Virtuous Woman
Originally published: May 2013. Updated April 2023.

Please note this article was written over 10 years ago. My children are now all grown – my youngest daughter is now in college and I’m raising 4 of my stepdaughter’s children. The ideas and message remain the same. 🙂

This comment (below) was in response to my article, Structuring the Day for a Toddler. I wanted to share my response with everyone.

Comment: Wise words, and a helpful schedule. I follow most of this schedule already and can testify that it works!

I just wanted to add to the discussion that I struggle with the idea that it isn’t good to sleep as long as your children sleep in the mornings and that that makes you “that kind of mom”. Personally, I struggle with never getting enough sleep and perpetual fatigue, and if I can get an extra hour in the mornings and sleep as long as my daughter sleeps, I will because it makes me a better Mom and wife that day. For those of us who have husbands with evening responsibilities, going to bed extra early is not always an option without cheating him. Being pregnant and/or having a night-nursing baby, as many moms of toddlers do, compounds the problem and makes skimping yourself of an extra hour of sleep, in some cases, irresponsible.

I hope that when my children are older, sleep through the night consistently, and are less demanding during the day, getting more solid rest at night and waking up earlier before them will be possible – I think it will be. But I think it lays an unnecessary guilt trip on pregnant/nursing/moms-of-little-ones to tell them they should be voluntarily giving up sleep when they are already so exhausted. We all know how cranky and ungodly we can be when we are tired! And for others, it leads to depression and anxiety. Sleep is important, and one of the keys to making us good moms. Let’s not discourage those of us who lay the housework aside and nap when our baby naps, or are excited that we got an extra half hour of sleep when the toddler decided to sleep in a little bit that day.

You can find ways to still fit in time with God and make mornings pleasant. For example, I still make an effort to smile and greet my toddler joyfully when I get her out of her crib, even if I’m jerked out of sleep and still groggy. Also, I love that she actually sees me do my devotions every morning, even if I am more distracted than if I were alone.

– Leah

NOTE: In my response, I am talking in generalities and use the word “your” which is not directed at Leah above. 🙂

Response: Leah, I totally agree! Sleep is so important and one of the Eight Laws of Health! And in life there are seasons. Some seasons, such as when you have babies, you have to grab sleep whenever you can. I love how you said that you try hard to wake up with a cheerful attitude even if you are exhausted. That’s so important!

I have struggled with sleep deprivation for the last couple of years (and with my health) and I can testify that not getting enough sleep can really affect the rest of your life.

However, (and only each one of us can judge our own motives for ourselves) I have five children and they are pretty well spaced apart. My oldest son was twelve when my youngest child was born and at the time I was homeschooling three of my children. I couldn’t sleep in (otherwise the day would be shot) and I managed. I’m not saying that to suggest that I am in any way better than other moms! It’s just a fact.

The other fact is that over the last two years or so I’ve gone through some serious emotional, physical, and mental burnout – due to a lot of family crisis, stress,’ and just having way too much to do. My health has been poor for over 2 decades due to a chronic illness. And I have felt like I could never get enough sleep. I’ve spent the last two years sleeping in to around 7 or 7:30 in the morning. (My kids are ten years older now.) I’m still homeschooling and I can testify that the last two years have been really rough. I don’t accomplish nearly as much when I sleep in even an hour later.

But I desperately need my sleep.

I am not in any way shape or form a perfect mom. Or perfect anything. I struggle with all sorts of things.

We each have to decide what is right for our families. If you are unsure – pray about it! Every family and family situation is unique.

As for being “that kind of mom”… I have personally known quite a few moms who stay up late selfishly and then sleep-in in the mornings and their children have to practically beg for breakfast.

That is not a God-honoring use of your time. I was not talking about moms who have legitimate reasons for not getting up at the crack of dawn (or earlier). We each have to search our hearts to know whether the root of our “need for sleep” is derived from selfishness. Moms need sleep and that’s okay!

Something I’ve given a lot of thought to recently is the fact that we all need to understand that not every message is meant for us. If it doesn’t apply to you, recognize that it may apply to someone else and you can just move on or share it with someone who might need the inspiration.

Note: I am currently raising 4 of my stepdaughter’s children for the last 2 1/2 years because she failed to care for them properly. Not all moms are doing the things they need to do. 4/18/2023

I would suggest that for most moms, getting up early is going to serve them and their families the best. If your baby keeps you up in the middle of the night, work toward getting her to sleep through the night. If your child is sick one night, forget the early morning and sleep in if you are able, or get a nap when your little one goes down for her nap.

I know I have said this before in the past, but if you can’t or aren’t able to get up early for morning devotions, have your devotions at the breakfast table or any other time that works best for you! I love Leah’s suggestion above about having her devotions with the kids present.

It’s okay to have your morning devotions with your kids present.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Get the kids involved in your worship time if they want your attention. In fact, I recommend having a morning worship together regardless of when you have your own personal study time. In my house, we try to have family worship while we are all still sitting at the breakfast table.

Here’s the thing. If your baby or toddler wakes up and is hungry, he’s more likely to be cranky and fussy. If he has to wait for 30 minutes after you wake up for you to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, and fix breakfast, low blood sugar can cause a child to feel anxious and fussy. That just gets your day off wrong.

By consistently following a basic routine for your day on most days children feel more secure and happy. They are less fussy as a general rule. Now maybe your child is completely easygoing and doesn’t seem to care when he eats and takes naps haphazardly. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. I’m just saying that’s the exception to the rule and I still believe that steady routines make children feel safe.

Please know, I would never want a mother who is giving her family her very best to ever feel guilty for getting some much needed extra sleep!

When you put your child (or children) on a basic routine during the day including set bedtimes, often their sleep patterns at night even out and they fall into a good circadian rhythm and will sleep through the night.

If you are breastfeeding, I definitely recommend co-sleeping! I was always able to wake up early when I had nursing infants because we co-slept together and waking up for middle-of-the-night feedings went practically unnoticed because all I really did was take two seconds to latch the baby on and I was back to sleep.

Like I said in my previous follow up to Structuring the Day for a Toddler, Structuring the Day for a Toddler and a School Aged Child, anything I offer here is just a suggestion! I’m sharing what worked for me.

From my experience, all five of my children rarely cried. They were (and are) well-behaved most of the time. I have never been able to stick to a strict schedule despite trying several times years ago, but routines work well for our family and me. That’s why I suggest creating a gentle flow or rhythm to your day and not trying to do too much which I have been guilty of in the past.

Side Note: I have suffered from frequent insomnia the last couple of years. Anything can keep me awake – stress, joy, excitement, new book ideas, etc. My mind just won’t always shut down. Or, I’ll go to sleep and then wake up a couple of hours later and not be able to sleep until around 6:00 am. So frustrating!

I recently started taking Valerian Root, which is an herb that helps you relax at bedtime so that you can sleep. This has been life changing for me! I feel refreshed when I wake up!

No joke, I can’t even tell you how amazing it has been for me to have my energy back. I’m still catching up on sleep, but I look forward to waking up earlier. I’ve already noticed that I’m just waking up by 7:00 am feeling wide awake.

I thought I would share that. since some of you may have a hard time sleeping regardless of whether your little ones are waking you up in the middle of the night.

My hope is that moms everywhere will find a good balance to their day, have less stress, and more energy, peace, and joy!

Have you struggled with getting enough sleep? What has helped you?

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  1. I want you to know how much your blot posting mean to me! I love reading them and then using them in my home! God has truly blessed you with a wonderful gift. Many blessings!
  2. Thanks for responding to my comment! I really appreciated this post! I was hoping to hear some of your thoughts in response! Side note, too - valerian root is a wonderful herb for sleeping, I've seen it bless others too. Great for a drug-free alternative for insomniacs!
  3. Hi! I was wondering if you have any suggestions for waking up without waking a cosleeping baby! :) I have a 5 mo old and we generally don't get up till 8 together! I definitely don't get as much done- but with random teething/growth spurt night wakings it's hard but I would like to get up at least a bit before her to eat and focus before she's up! I have a pretty good routine but would like the option to get up before her ;) thanks for the posts! I'm just discovering you via pinterest and spending a few minutes looking around!
  4. Hello, I came across your article on Pinterest and for the most part I've liked what I've seen. I am the mother of a 6 yr old, a 3 yr old and a 10 month old.The one pill that was hard to swallow was when you mentioned moms who stay up late selfishly. For me, after bedtime is the only time I get to myself, to relax and also to wait for my husband to get home. Many nights a week he doesn't get home until well after 10pm, but i dont want to miss welcoming him home and spending time with him. I don't find this to be selfish, but I am completely exhausted! My youngest son gets up at 6am, many times woken by my husband who gets up for work again at 5:30am. My oldest I have to get up at 6:30 so he can make it to the bus. So maybe it's a little selfish, but if I don't get even an hour to myself, I may go mental! I'm having a nearly impossible time finding a good balance with my kids early risers and my husband's off the wall schedule.
    1. It is a possibility to go to sleep at the same time as the children during naptime and then at bedtime set yourself an alarm to wake up in time to faithfully greet your hubby home from work so you can get needed sleep without sacrificing precious alone time. Time for yourself is important to your own mental health and to be able to continue to be the best mom you can for your children. God has recently blessed me with the idea of shared alone time with the kids. I know this sounds counterintuitive but it has been a lifesaver for me. Choose a relaxing activity you enjoy and can rejuvenate you then find a way your children can mirror it. I color in my "adult" coloring book while the kids color in their own coloring books or read a book of my own while the children read their books. This allows them to feel involved and included while you still get some time to unwind. Other ideas include: cross stitch or sewing while kids do lace up cards, working in clay while kids do play dough, beading or jewelery making while kids thread pony beads, an electronic for you and one for kids, an at home workout for you to do while they copy, or anything else similar or even the same as your chosen stress release activity. Alternatively you can do any activity you enjoy while the children do another completely different favorite activity or enjoy quiet time activities {set apart specifically for this purpose} as part of your daily routine. A division of space or supervised separation is another alternative where you set up a play area near by but blocked off by a gate or in a playpen so you are "alone" without kids all over you and able to unwind or catch a nap knowing children are safely contained while still being close enough to supervise or wake of needed and prevent additional stressful disastrous messes. This can hopefully help you be more rested and stay sane inbetween those rare opportunities for personal (instead of shared) alone time.
  5. Wow, i cant believe what i just read. So moms who stay up late (selfishly as you said) are not godly?? Wow....i read a couple of your posts and found them to be incredibly judgy. If you have to constantly say that you are not saying your perfect or putting down other people, that is exactly what you are doing.
      1. She just sounds convicted to me, lol. I know I am! I absolutely LOVED the comment by someone up there who said to do mirroring stuff, like read your own book while they read theirs, or cross-stitch while they lace pony beads. I have boys, so sometimes things like that don’t work, but the idea itself is pretty amazing. That way I can have some “me time” during the day and then get to bed earlier. I’m too tired to actually accomplish anything at night anyway! I’ll definitely give this a try!

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