Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
70
Owls versus Larks
March 14, 2022

Found in age groups

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Introduction

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.

Blog 70Owls versus Larks

Owls versus Larks

Some adults are ‘owls’, they feel better in the evening, prefer to go to bed later, and, when able, wake up later. Other adults are ‘larks’, they feel better in the morning, prefer to go to bed earlier, and wake up earlier.

Dr. Isabel Morales-Munoz (Blog Post 61) recently discovered another reason why some parents keep their child up too late. She studied about a thousand families before the child was born, and at 3, 8, 18, and 24 months, and observed that some children at each age have both a high proportion of day sleep compared with total sleep and late bedtimes; the mothers of these children tended to be “owls” instead of “larks.” That is, these mothers preferred to go to bed later, woke up later, and felt better in the evening. As a group, the children of mothers with “eveningness preference” required more time to fall asleep after being put down and had more sleep difficulties. How­ever, their total sleep duration was not different from children whose mothers with “morningness preference.” Early bedtimes, not just sleep duration, makes for healthier sleep (Blog Posts 7, 22, 68, and 69)! The father’s role was also studied, and his preference for eveningness or morningness had no effect.

However, you might ask: Aren’t some children owls who really come alive in the evening and thrive on late bedtimes? After all, some of my friends have children who are owls and they appear to be just fine. The answer is clear:

  • Re­search using objective measures of sleep and salivary melatonin shows that in the age range of 30–36 months, the number of definite evening types (owls) is zero.
  • Another parent-response study found evening types (owls) in this same age range to be 0.9 percent of chil­dren. In fact, they observed that between birth and 8 years of age, evening types (owls) occurred in less than 2 percent of children at every age. The vast majority of young children are larks. Larks sleep bet­ter with early bedtimes.

Bedtimes are based on drowsy signs, not clock times, so please do not compare your child’s bedtime with that of another child. Also, realistically, circumstances may make it difficult for parents to synchronize soothing to sleep at night with the onset of drowsy signs. For some parents, the reality is that a bedtime that is too late is unavoidable. Even so, try to move the bedtime just a few minutes earlier. An important point to remember is that a little earlier bedtime, just a few minutes earlier (Blog Post 6), will benefit your child. A little bit of extra sleep goes a long way.

Comments

  1. Hi! I learned somewhere that the circadian rythm of children stays early (larks) until adolescence when melatonin is produced a little later due to hormone changes. So truly the classification of larks and owls comes until adolescence. Do you agree?

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