5am starts aren’t much fun. The toddler demands to get up, you’ve not had enough sleep to manage the long day ahead and by the end of the day you want to cut short your precious ‘me’ time to gain back a little extra sleep before doing it again. We’ve had a lot of early starts and despite managing the clocks going back the early starts were become too frequent. It was time to try out technology and that popular piece of sleep training kit: the Groclock.

Sun and stars

Groclock wake up timeIf you’ve not encountered it, the Groclock is a well thought-through sleep training clock. It’s the dominant product in the market and features many of the hallmarks of a mature product. The clock operates by displaying stars on a blue background during the night which gradually disappear as the night progresses before the clock face turns yellow with the sun at the set waking time. The clock comes complete with a storybook, explaining how you’ll have fun by sleeping through the night and not rising before the ‘sun’.

An early start

We’re trying out the Groclock a couple of months ahead of that recommended, which suggests it’s for 2 years and older. We’re sure that Tilly can understand the concept of only waking when the clock shows the sun, however the question is whether she’ll go with the training or get bored or frustrated and call to get up anyway.

Mixed reviews

Browsing sleep training clocks is a frustrating experience, reflecting that children either take to certain types of sleep training or they don’t. Consequently, online reviews tend to be very Trip Advisor in style, in that they’re either ‘it works, it’s brilliant, five stars!’ or ‘it doesn’t work, it’s rubbish, one star.’ The same applies to all clocks so it doesn’t make it terribly helpful in choosing a particular model. We opted for the Groclock based on what we’ve heard from others but others may well be worth considering.

Using the clock

In terms of the Groclock itself, it’s a visually appealing product and the inclusion of the story book undoubtedly helps selling the concept to the child. I found the language of the story to be rather too complex for our not-quite-2 year old so I simplify it when we read the story each night. A handy demo mode was a great help in initially showing to Tilly how the clock works and it’s handy that you can turn on the sun before switching it to the night time setting.

There are various features that we’re not making use of at Tilly’s age, but which I can see would be helpful as she gets older, such as the disappearing stars showing the progress of the night, the ability to show the time and the option of an audible alarm at wake up time (definitely not something we’ll need for the foreseeable future!)

Tilly has already started reaching for the buttons on the clock during the day, so I can see that we’ll be making use of the keylock soon, although as the buttons are on the front, it’ll require some effort to conceal this.

Generally the clock is easy to use and despite having only three buttons, you could work out how to use most of it without the manual, which is something that a lot of simplified appliances can fail on – we have no idea of how to use most of the functions on our microwave for this very reason. The manual includes a handy FAQ section, which indicates it’s been revised over time to response to user feedback, which is a positive sign.

Our experience so far

We initially set the Groclock for a 6am wakeup time, as this was at the later end of Tilly’s normal 5am – 6am period for waking. Following a couple of days of calling out before sun, she then waited for it.

At the weekend we decided to move the sunrise time back slightly to 6.15, as this was better for us both on weekends and weekdays. This gave us a setback in progress as Tilly was still waking around 6am and she wouldn’t always wait until 6.15. She’s showing some initial signs of waiting for the later time but this will take a bit longer to bed in.

Overall, since we’ve started using the Groclock Tilly hasn’t woken what we would call early, with all waking times being around 6am. This in itself is a great improvement, although as her sleeping has been cyclical in the past, we want to see how it pans out over a number of weeks before declaring success. We’re probably not going to push her sleep or waking times much more than at present to allow opportunity for ShireMum to spend time with Tilly before and after work. Nevertheless, if we regularly gain just another hour’s sleep, it will make a significant improvement.

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