Owls are creatures of the night. They get energized at night and have great difficulty waking up early. Larks, on the other hand, love to go to bed early and wake up early, ready to go!
You may have noticed your baby or toddler fall into one of these two categories or show a tendency of one over the other.
Baby Sleep Patterns: What’s Normal?
When Daylight Saving Time starts, you may hope that your baby will get on a new schedule. You might hope your lark wakes up later and will be disappointed when their schedule shifts back to where it was. If you have a night owl, you are cringing at getting baby to bed earlier once the time shifts forward.
Developmentally, many babies go through a period of waking very early in their first year. This does NOT mean they will always be this way. For some, that is sadly not the case. 🙁
Baby Sleep Patterns: How They Change
And, for many babies, they get “trained” to wake up early. I’ve worked with parents whose baby wakes up as early as 4!!
Since light is what cues our brain to be awake and set our internal clock, one of the bigger mistakes you can make during the first year is allowing your baby to get up much before 5:30 or 6 a.m. and continue to do it for months on end.
Do NOT start your day before 6 a.m., if you can help it!
Baby Sleep Patterns: Set Appropriate Expectations
With that said, you also have to have realistic expectations and be fair to your baby. You can’t put your baby to bed at 6 p.m. and expect her to necessarily wake up at 6 a.m. or later. 11-12 hours at night is normal for babies and toddlers under 2 (after 2 is variable), with a minimum of 10 hours, so it’s important to know your baby’s tendency for nighttime sleep and set her schedule accordingly. To help you figure that out, track your baby’s sleep for 2+ weeks.
My eldest son was (and is) a NIGHT OWL! It is very challenging because the bedtime routine tends to shift later and later if we don’t set firm limits. But, if his bedtime is too late, it used to lead to night-wakings. And now it just leads to a too-early wake-up and crankiness. He is so afraid he’s going to miss something (a clear case of FOMO) and just doesn’t want the day to end…EVER.
Add to that, when he was a baby, he was mostly an 11-hour baby (until he went to one nap), so we did have a 5 or 5:30 a.m. wake-time from around 6 to 8 or 9 months (before I shifted his schedule). For a while, he woke up after 8 or 8:30 a.m., but now he has hovered around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. where I expect it to stay until he becomes a teenager and I have to drag him out of bed. 🙂
Can you change a lark into an owl or vice versa?
No, not really. It’s biological. According to Dr. Richard Ferber, they have even found a specific gene responsible! So, it’s not people’s imagination when they just aren’t “morning people” and “hate” those who bounce off the walls in the morning.
However, some people’s tendency is stronger than others, so it IS possible to shift schedules at least a little bit for many babies who wake too early or go to bed too late after 9 or 10 months old. In fact, somehow I have changed into a night owl myself! I used to be a big-time morning person, but I have built this entire website mostly at night (some very late ones I might add!) and I tend to have trouble getting up early these days. I blame the kids. 😀
Dealing With Owl and Lark Behavior That’s Disturbing Sleep? We Can Help!
If you’ve tried sleep training on your own without success, you are not alone; many, many parents struggle to get their babies and toddlers sleeping well. What you may need at this point is an expert to help you through the sleep training process. Connect with one of our expert consultants today; she’ll craft a Personalized Sleep Plan® just for your baby, walk you through every step of sleep coaching and schedule-making, and provide detailed answers to your most pressing sleep questions.