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!
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13 thoughts on “Owls and Larks – Which Is Your Baby?”
My 11 month old must be a LARK. She would fall asleep for the night as early as 5pm. It worked out ok when she woke up for night feeds. But now that she is STTN and is only a 10 hour sleeper an early bed time of say 6pm only means an early wake up, 4 something AM. I tried shifting her with the recent time change but its not working. 🙁
It does sound as if you’ve a lark on your hands! Have you read this article about shifting schedules?
Maybe with a little more help your daughter can sleep in just a little later?
And here is a link to our ebook specifically addressing scheduling problems, with tips and examples of how to shift schedules!
I myslef am a nite owl, always has been. So is my son (age 4). What really sucks is my daughter (9mo old) is both a lark and a nite owl. I litterally have to fight to get her to sleep by 9. normally i suceed by 1030., while she will still wake by 600-700am. My son the owl- if im lucky he’ll be passed out by 1230-100am. I have tried everything to change thier schedules. From waking earlier, to less naps.. so many books and website i have read. nothing seems to be working.and nothing is improving. I average about 4-5hrs asleep at nite. I got more sleep when they were newborns!. I thgouht by age 4 thier would be a concrete sleep schedule..HA! Although my son is ADHD (might be part of the problem) my daughter is not. So i have no clue why their schedules are so distorted. My pediatrician just keep telling me to keep trying. anyone know anything else that might work?
@Danielle Have you read my guest article on ADHD and Sleep? Here’s a link: https://www.babysleepsite.com/adhd/adhd-sleep-story/ You might check into Melatonin. As for suggestions, I really need to know more detail about their schedules (particularly your daughter’s) to give concrete advice. At the very least, have you tried room-darkening blinds on the windows? Those helped both my sons sleep past the crack of dawn more regularly as light cues us when it’s time to wake and sleep. Good luck!
My daughter is a lark but my husband and I are both night owls so it’s been a struggle. Before I had my daughter I would roll out of bed at 7:15, throw myself in the shower and drag my heels to get into work by 8am. My daughter wakes up at 5:30am no matter what happens, when she goes to sleep the night before, how many times she’s woken up previously, how light or dark it is… nothing changes. 5:30am no matter what. I really don’t think she’ll grow out of it either, she’s been this way since about 4 months old and she’s 11 months now. Oh well!
@Melissa Don’t throw in the towel yet. She still might change. I had a son go from waking 5 to 5:30, then I shifted his schedule forward to 6 to 6:30 and then at one time he was waking at 8 or 8:30! He is now back to 6:45 to 7:15, but one day he will be able to get his own cereal to eat while I finish my sleep. I’m sure it will bitter sweet when he’s that “old”. 🙂
I think my five month old son is in between,though he sometimes wants to sleep as early as 6;30 pm,he sometimes misses his sleeo time and stay up until 9 pm only to wake up again at 11pm and rise up as early as 4 am. Or he can sometimes have lots of energy during the night and not sleep at all the next day until 1 pm. Am really trying to get him him into a routine that you suggested but it cant seem to work. Am so confused and sleep depraved given that am a working mom who has to start her day at 5;30 am. Plese help.
for those with swaddle houdinis or looking at weaning from the swaddle, we got a Peke Moe sleep sack from New Zealand it was worth it’s weight in gold for our boy
hope it helps someone!
@Pearl Thanks! Looks comfy!
My 6 week old is definitely a night owl. He wakes up to eat, but sleeps almost all day. Then around 7 or 8 at night he’ll finally wake up and be up all night. I’m trying the bath, bottle, bed method to set up a routine, but to no avail. He stays up wide awake til 4 or 5 a.m. Reading your articles, I also think maybe he is developing a sleep association with rocking. The second I set him in his crib at night he wakes up immediately. I’m going to try the Ferber method you talk about. I know it’s way too early and cruel to try CIO yet. It’s still to early in his life for a rigid schedule, but if I could just get his days and nights righted I’d be happy. Any additional advice would be sooooo greatly appreciated. I’m at my wits end.
@Amber Newborns do get their days and nights mixed up. Make sure you read my newborn sleep tips post. Here is the link: https://www.babysleepsite.com/newborns/newborn-sleep-baby-tips-10/ I typically don’t recommend even Ferber’s method at this age. At this age, their ability to self-soothe is very limited. Good luck!!
I think that my 8 mo. old daughter will be somewhere in between, but just a month ago I would’ve sworn that she was going to be an early bird and it was pretty disheartening. However, we have stumbled upon what seems to have been the answer for her — not swaddling anymore. She was consistently waking at 4-5 AM for the longest time, but one morning I noticed that she went back to sleep on her own and when I went in to her later that morning she had completely gotten out of her swaddle and sleep positioner. I just assumed that those two things helped her feel cozy, but apparently not — the next night we removed them altogether and she has been consistently sleeping until 6:30-7:30 AM since! Now I think that she was waking up at that early time, and just couldn’t get comfortable enough to go back to sleep. Who knew!?
@Lisa Thanks for sharing! I think most people tend to stop swaddling somewhere between 4 and 6 months. I’m so glad that’s all it took! Woohoo!
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