Does your baby have a daily routine like a teenager? He goes to bed after midnight and you can’t seem to change that despite following all the advice on the internet? It is amazing that some parents can put their children to bed at the same time every day, while others find it difficult. What’s the matter? Perhaps in the chronotype of the baby.
Owl people are those who find it difficult to sleep at night, and such children usually cause a lot of anxiety to parents. When you are about to put them to bed, the child’s energy level is at its peak, at which point he begs to go out. If you can’t go outside because of darkness or winter, the baby wants to run around the house, and when trying to put him to bed, he throws a tantrum when the parents are already exhausted and cannot fight for the regime. If you have such an owl baby and you are wondering why the baby does not sleep, read on.
Why does your child not want to sleep?
Some children sleep at night because of the mistakes of their parents, while others fall into a different chronotype. Chronotypes are tendencies to sleep. There are four different categories of chronotypes: morning, evening, lark, and owl.
Young children who go to bed late or sleep with too bright lights for sleep (it should be completely dimmed, but it is better to be absent), develop delays in the body clock, the so-called social jet lag: read more about it here.
The biological clock is a tiny area of the brain that helps distinguish between day and night. This watch encourages us to be active during the day and lulls us at night by stimulating the production of certain hormones.
When the biological clock begins to “lag behind”, we go to bed later than the body needs, and this is harmful at any age.
Another reason why a child does not want to sleep in the evening is overwork. Although fatigue is good for babies, overwork works differently. And this is the most common cause of sleep problems that most children experience.
The child should get enough sleep at night and enough sleep during the day so as not to be exhausted at the end of the day. Due to sleep disturbances at night, it will be difficult for the baby to fall asleep during the day. If both are combined, a vicious cycle of frequent night awakenings and fatigue begins.
How to change the time of falling asleep in “night owls”?
Whether the child remains a night owl largely depends on the efforts of the parents. Here’s how you can change this wrong daily routine.
If the child does not fall asleep at a reasonable time, you should think about the quality of sleep. According to the sleep guidelines, kindergarten-aged children should get at least 10 hours of sleep a day. You can help them sleep better by literally teaching them how to sleep with these steps:
- Give your child healthy and light meals at night.
- Limit or avoid sweets and sugary drinks before bed (including fruit juices).
- Set a daily routine and stick to it. This routine is important because it helps the body prepare for sleep.
- Do not give your child foods with caffeine and tannins (including black tea and cocoa) or highly processed foods after 4 p.m.
- Limit entertainment (internet, TV) before bed.
- Do not allow family members to play active games with the baby and overexcite an hour before bedtime. Even if this is the very moment when the long-awaited dad finally comes home from work.
- Set a schedule for waking up in the morning. In the same way that you set up a nighttime sleep schedule, you need to maintain a morning routine. If the child wakes up at 7 am, make sure that this also happens on weekends and holidays. Violation of the daily routine will disrupt sleep patterns.
- Set an alarm to wake your baby up at the same time every day. As soon as the alarm goes off, check if the child is up.
You should also check if the child has problems with the deep sleep phase. If you’ve done everything to help him start falling asleep on time, including setting up a daily routine, it might be time to get an expert’s opinion.
On average, it is important for children to adhere to the daily routine with deviations of a maximum of 30 minutes from the time of eating and sleeping: this is how their body works. However, there are sensitive babies for whom an extra 15 minutes of late bedtime will already cause problems. Children with neurological disorders are especially often affected.
Remember that sleep disturbances can affect your child’s overall health. Such pathologies include nightmares, sleepwalking and night terrors, or fears, a special condition when the baby cries without waking up — read more about this in the article “The child screams and cries with fear at night: what is happening?”.
Is it bad if the child is a real owl?
Having an owl child is in many ways inconvenient, it interferes with attending kindergarten, and then studying at school. However, in general, in children with a similar chronotype, only lack of sleep causes concern for harm to health.
If a preschooler sleeps his 10–12 hours a day, does not look exhausted before going to bed and easily goes to bed during the day, and this has always been the case, despite going to bed late, then this is his individual norm. In order for the child to have a quality and relaxing rest, he needs to sleep regularly and in accordance with his age. So if all else fails and he goes to bed at midnight, the main thing is to get enough sleep.
Recall that this does not apply to cases when laying is artificially delayed due to an incorrect daily routine. A strict regime helps the vast majority of children go to bed in the evening, and optimally at 7–8 pm.
According to studies, it is at this time in childhood that the peak production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, occurs, and real owls are a rare exception.
With baby owls, it can be difficult to maintain common bedtime rituals for babies. However, in itself, such a chronotype does not mean that the child is worse than the others.
According to research by scientists at the University of Cleveland, the chronotype is not a personal choice or mistake of the parents, but an innate feature. Such people usually have a higher IQ, peak energy and performance in the evening, and a higher chance of achieving success in various areas.
However, you need to understand exactly what is the reason for late going to bed before you accept and call the baby an owl. There are many reasons for trouble falling asleep: for example, scientists from the University of Chile found that iron deficiency at an early age can influence this. So don’t give up right away! And the article “How to put children to bed easily: advice from sleep consultants” can help you with this.
Iron deficiency anemia in infancy is associated with altered temporal organization of sleep states in childhood. / Peirano PD, Algarín CR, Garrido MI, et al // Pediatric Res - 2007 - 62(6)
Cross-cultural differences in infant and toddler sleep. / Mindell JA, Sadeh A, Wiegand B, et al // Sleep Med - 11(3)