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dd becoming one of those unschooling night owls

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

well, dd has been a night owl for quite a while.  but i have intervened just enough to see that she sleeps by midnight - most of the time.  Now it seems like my intervening is becoming more for the same result - and i wonder if it is the right thing to do.   She really perks up after 10 pm.


I think I should not intervene esp now that she is approaching 8 and I dont want this to become a point of tension.  However I feel that if I do nothing she will stay up later and later and as a result miss out on most of the daylight hours.   I have seen others in my family struggle with not being able to get up in the morning, not being able to sleep at night, etc.  It is not pretty.   Right now, if I do give reminders and move things towards lights-out by midnight, she does fall asleep soon after.


The only other thought that comes to mind is to move everything in the evening earlier, so we eat earlier, play games, and I myself get in bed earlier. At some point her own desire to be awake, at the time that she is quite alert and bubbling with energy and ideas becomes so great that (one might ask) even if she could fall asleep, should she do so just because of the time on the clock?   I think so - but I questions why I think this.





post #2 of 17

I was a schooling night owl. I was just exhausted. Teens generally have a circadian rhythm that has them sleeping until noon and staying up well past midnight. Then people who aren't going to have that sort of rhythm as adults change into their adult rhythm.


I wouldn't change when you have dinner and such, just let your dinner be her lunch and let her make the sort of things she'd make for lunch (sandwiches, whatever you're comfortable with her doing while you sleep) be her last meal before going to sleep.


Establish guidelines and rules for stuff she can/can't do while you're asleep so you don't have to stay up.


If she wants a class with an earlier start time, you guys can discuss how to get enough sleep and wake up on time.

post #3 of 17

Does this daughter have her own bedroom/place to sleep or does she share with someone else?


If she has her own place and her being up late doesn't disturb anyone else that seems the ideal solution.


Spend lots of time with her during the hours when you are all up and around...she shouldn't be in any sort of voluntary exile because her rhythm is different.


And then make sure she has what she needs once you head for bed. Can she put together a monkey platter of foods she likes to take with her? Does she have the toys, activities, reading materials she'd enjoy?


I guess I am recommending you treat it the same way you would a child being involved in something during daylight hours -- make sure they have all the resources they need. This gives both physical and emotional support for their needs.


My 7yo son is quite similar. His natural body rhythm is to go to sleep around midnight and get up around 10 (sometimes closer to 11.) I wouldn't know what is natural for him if he didn't have the freedom to follow his body's cues. 

I am that way too. I usually go to bed around midnight (which is not the reason he does....he has the freedom to stay up in his room for as long as he wants) and awaken, naturally at about 8am. If I go to bed earlier than that I lie there being frustrated that I can't go to sleep. I'd rather be up knitting. :D


I'm assuming that if laying in bed completely unable to go to sleep is difficult and frustrating for me, it would be even more so for my 7yo.


Both my sons (the elder one is 11 but is a morning person) know that they can stay up as late as they want, as long as they follow basic 'house rules' like respecting that others might like to stay asleep and such. (Which applies to morning too.....the night owls need their sleep just as much as the morning people do.)



post #4 of 17

We are a family of night-owls, and we've been talking about this lately, because if we don't keep on top of it, it invariably starts to have a negative impact on how we are able to use our days. Personally I don't believe that being a night-owl means you stay up late, any more than being an introvert means you're antisocial. Both just describe ways in which people optimize their mental and emotional energies.


The way I explain it to my kids (my youngest is almost 8, and I have a tween and two teens) is that some people are most energized during the first half of the day, and others are most energized in the last half of the day. If you are in the latter group, the night-owls, you feel really good and full of beans in the hours before your natural bedtime, and so you will be very tempted to keep up the fun, interesting productive things you're doing and not go to bed. The creative energy you feel tempts you to push your bedtime back, and if you let it go even just a few minutes a night, it won't be long until your sleep-wake cycle is pushed hours later. So being a night-owl means (a) recognizing that you do your best intellectual and creative work in the second half of the day, and (b) appreciating that night-owls have an inherent tendency to push their bedtimes later and later each night. My kids all accept (thanks to personal experience) that going to bed at 5 a.m. is not conducive to productive participation in community and other out-of-home activities, so they see the need to prevent that slide towards later and later bedtimes. 


We have family meetings to talk about ways to do this, since my kids very much prefer not to have rules about bedtime. We've used many different strategies to jog the bedtime back on track when necessary, most with at least some success. I find that moving supper a little earlier definitely helps. Gradually scaling back artificial lighting and artificial noises in the mid-evening is a big one. If I make the living room fairly dark and quiet, people are far more likely to recognize that it's getting late. A snack and herbal tea at 10:30 pm is enough of a treat to draw people away from their activities and allow them to pause and recognize their fatigue. And reading aloud, which we used to call bedtime story but now call readaloud since my kids railed at the "bedtime" expectation, is the biggest help. My 12-year-old often insists she's not ready for sleep, but if I tell her that I'm going to bed soon, so I'll read now and she can stay up afterwards, she usually unwinds while listening and by the time I'm done reading she confesses she's exhausted and heads for bed. And the trick that's most effective with my youngest is to do a few fun interesting things in the mornings before she's up. If she gets up at 10 a.m. and the muffins are already baked, or I've already been outside ice-skating, she's bummed out that she's missed it, and she is very motivated to move her bedtime sooner to avoid a recurrence.


So I try to gently create evening rhythms and conditions that encourage timely bedtimes, but I don't enforce or control anything. My kids often ask me to control their awakening times, to get them up at specific times to help ensure that they're tired enough by late evening to go to bed the following night. Getting them alarm clocks has also been helpful. 



post #5 of 17

taking notes... we're pretty much unschooling at the moment, and dd (5) has always been a night owl, moreso lately. Up till midnight the last few nights, which frustrates me due to the negative effects on my own sleep. The fact that I work nights doesn't help, as I no longer get her up early for activities or going places on my days off. Getting her up and running around by 9 am seems to be the biggest thing to help her reset her internal clock.

post #6 of 17


post #7 of 17

Moominmama wrote: "Gradually scaling back artificial lighting and artificial noises in the mid-evening is a big one. If I make the living room fairly dark and quiet, people are far more likely to recognize that it's getting late."


This is key for us, as well. If left to their own devices, both children will stay up later and later - we've had periods where they'd be awake at 1 am. This doesn't seem natural to me, as before the invention of artificial light I bet it would be highly unusual to find people who lived this way. I'm grateful for Miranda's interpretation of what it means to be a "night owl", because it fits with my naturalistic understanding of things and explains a lot. DD is definitely a night owl, and is most creative in the evenings.


It's part of my daily routine to dim lights not long after dinner, especially in winter when days are short. I put on soft lights in the bedrooms and the children move to quieter play or activities. I like doing this even just for myself, but it definitely helps keep the kids on a reasonable sleep schedule. We do enforce a bedtime around here, but the kids are free to read or draw or do other quiet activities in their room at this time (they have nightlights and booklights for this purpose).

post #8 of 17

- sorry, double post!

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for the thoughtful replies.  Last night we ate at 7 (instead of 8) and she started her bedtime routine at 10:30, was in bed by 11.  I am not sure when she fell asleep but I didn't hear anything from her so presumably she was creatively engaged, if awake.  She also woke up a bit earlier, and fresher than usual.  I think this is the direction we will take.  I also like the idea of having family discussions about this and other matters from time to time.


For now I am leaning towards proactively scaling our evening and bed time earlier.  If this comes in the way of her chances "to optimize her mental and emotional energies" then we might have to change tracks, but right now I see her quite happily absorbed in a set of marbles, which she is pretending are dolls (and which she just now told me "are better than dolls").  So I think she just as creative in the morning as well.  Actually, I think she would be happy if she never needed to sleep at all. 


I guess I am recommending you treat it the same way you would a child being involved in something during daylight hours -- make sure they have all the resources they need. This gives both physical and emotional support for their needs.


I will keep this in mind, but still work towards winding things up by 11 pm ... even that is considered "late" by most :lol. 

post #10 of 17

DS10 is starting to take 'control' of bedtime. I noticed more of a change over the school calendar winter break time. So mid December to about now.  He is choosing to stay up til about 10-1030 and sleep in til 9am or so.  Thats all great execpt on the days I sub and need to be out of the house at 6am!  Sometimes I dont get the call until 530am. He's not quite old enough to stay home alone so this new schedule of his takes a bit of tweeking.

I prefer the nights as well so I totally understand his wants. I'm more of a 2am-10am sleeper myself, but thats just not how the rest of the working world is.


As long as DS can function enough to get himself to the car and the sitters I'm fine with his sleep schedule.  He hangs out in his room either reading, creating with legos or playing with his camera most nights.

post #11 of 17

I have a night owl.  Left totally to his own devices, he would go to sleep around 4 a.m and wake up around 2 or 3 pm.


This is not good for a variety of reasons - mainly he has stuff that starts earlier than he wants to wake up.  That means he either misses stuff, we end up running late and I spend a lot of time devoted to waking him up.  Not fun for anyone.


We have had family and other committments over Xmas that has had him getting up many days around 11:00 and I have loved it.


I woke him up today around 1:00 simply for no reason -- other than I want him to keep up the better sleep schedule.


Off of me and on to tips:


Having a weekly calendar that shows what time they have to be up to get to where they want to be has helped.  3 times a week DS has to be up around 1:00-1:30, so it makes sense to have a bedtime that aligns with that.  It is hard to get into a good sleep rythym if sometimes you are getting up at 1:00 and other days at 3:00.


One last note, that is probably only relevant to the extreme night owls os sunlight exposure.  In the month of Dec my Ds was getting almost no sunlight.  he would wake up anywhere from 1-3, but the sun was going down around 4.  He was rarely out of the house by 4, and his lack of exposure to sunlight was starting to worry me.  






post #12 of 17

Dd has an alarm clock, which she uses on days when she knows that she has to get up earlier than 9AM (her normal time).  For whatever reason, the alarm clock does a MUCH better job of waking her up than me!

post #13 of 17

We just finished a phase during which we were all going to bed around 3AM, and waking up after 2PM (except poor DH). We are all night owls and my biggest challenge was to actually get up before kids. My 2 yo still nurses several times a night, my 8 yo screams or talks in her sleep 2-3 times a night--I don't get as much sleep as it seems. I wake up with the kids, wishing I could still sleep in.


Shifting back was tough. The kids were motivated, because of their morning art class. For the last 2 weeks we've been up at around 10, and we start winding down around 9PM, with DS falling asleep around 10, and DD1 around midnight, and DD2 somewhere in between.


I find the earlier bedtimes more challenging. The kids are definitely not mellow , are full of energy, and don't want to stop what they are doing. While DD1 is eager for me to read out loud, DS is not always as interested, and he'd rather do other things. DD2 has a toddler fixation on lights, so having even one light less results in her going nuts, and we decided not to make an issue out of that--the lights stay on. I end up reminding them over and over that they need to settle, or I wouldn't be taking them to the art class--I don't like threatening, but it is a harsh reality. If DD2 is not ready to wake up, she will be cranky and miserable, and she is already not too happy that she can't join their art class. During the summer and early fall I used to carry her to the can asleep, but this is no longer an option.


I really love our nocturnal life style, but I do realise that we all need daylight, and the kids would be missing out on some of the activities that they enjoy. So far the transition has been fairly successful, and I hope that we will get used to the rhythm and the bedtimes will be mellow and easy again. I gather all of this will be easier when DD2 is a bit older and doesn't nurse through the night.


It was helpful to read about other unschooling night owls!


post #14 of 17

Midnight:  would your toddler be appeased with Christmas lights?  Maybe she will be willing to have some lights off if the Xmas ones go on!  Some years we keep Xmas lights up in the house through winter, as the lack of sunlight can be quite depressing and the lights are cheery.


good luck - and I am glad I am not the only night owl family!


I hear you on the getting up before the kids...I have fallen into a pattern of going to sleep around 1:00, but my youngest wants me to get up with her around 8:00-9:00.  I am Ok with 9:00, but 8 is early!  I struggle with it a bit, part of me feels guilty, and part of me feels like: tough! she is 8, she can entertain herself for a bit.  Goodness knows I do not wake people up  (well, DS aside, but there are strong reasons for that, and he agrees to it)

post #15 of 17

i have a night owl toddler 6 and boy it is around 10pm when she starts to feel sleepy we have tried to eat dinner earlier and get her up earlier but she just never seems sleepy till about 10 pm... hopefully she outgrows this wanting to stay up at night faze

post #16 of 17

ds is most definitely a night owl. He either nurses down for bed at 8 and wakes up ready to go at 9pm, or just stays awake straight through until around 1am. It's pretty crazy, but rather than force a bedtime on him, we're trying to encourage some solo play. This is dh and I's only time to get anything productive done, so we try to minimize our involvement in his play etc...as it gets later!


post #17 of 17

Sounds like you've found a good solution, or at least on your way to one!


I have the same kind of thing going on in my house. My YDD and I are short-sleepers, ODD to a lesser extent, as in we need less sleep to be fully rested than most people which my doctor and their ped have both said likely has genetic components, AND are all nightowls. So we end up being up until 1 and 2, even 3AM occasionally (ODD sometimes turns in much earlier or just falls asleep wherever), and while YDD and I are raring to go at 7:30-9:30, ODD is conked out until at least 9-10AM most days. Lucky she sleeps really well in the car, because we'd never get anything done in the morning if she didn't. But it works out well. YDD does a lot of her independent play in the morning, and I work from home so I do most of that while ODD is asleep, and then we're out and about more the rest of the day, from 11AM on. It works great for us.


You could try:

- Soft music

- Leaving a radio, TV, CD player or fan on for white noise

- Reading soft, soothing, rhythmic poems aloud

- Making or letting your daughter make a big fort and let her, or both of you go to bed there, maybe doing a combination of some of the other things to "bring you down"

Or just accepting that it is what it is, and that there will be many phases throughout her life. Not all of them will be easily changed or altered by what you do, some just need to run their course and the only thing you can change about it is your handling of it, and whether she comes out of it feeling validated and happy, or feeling like the expectations and rules set burdened her because she couldn't live up to them, or only with a heavy heart, lived up to them. If she's willing and happy with "lights out by midnight," by all means keep doing it! But if she's turning the lights out but unhappy and resentful, or worse, just sitting around in the dark because her body just isn't ready to sleep, then perhaps there's another way to go about it that can benefit both of you, or a way for you to look at it differently and accept it.

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