Now here’s the blame part. Just the way brown eyes, full cheeks, and the ability (or inability) to understand math can be passed from mother or father to son or daughter, the tendency to be a “night person” can be handed down to children; if a parent is a night owl, there’s a significant chance that her child will be one too. DR1 markers, one group of human leukocyte antigens, which are markers in the white blood cells that help identify a variety of conditions, including whether or not a person is a good bone marrow donor, were positive in a statistically significant number of people who were sleep phase delayed. That suggested to the researchers conducting the study that there is a genetic predisposition to Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
A TEEN’S TAKE
“My dad is definitely not a night owl. He falls asleep five minutes after he turns on the TV or lies down. My mom, though, is a different story. She doesn’t go to sleep until after I do, and I’m up till at least 11:00. Then it takes me some time to fall asleep.”
Often when young patients come in to see me because they can’t fall asleep before 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, it turns out that one or both parents have the same problem. These adults may have found a way to live with the situation, perhaps by working in a job that doesn’t require an early start or by running their own business and setting their own hours, but their teens generally are not as lucky; they don’t have the lifestyle choices that adults do.
A friend of mine, for example, really wanted to have a third child but knew from her experiences waking up to nurse her first two children several times a night that she couldn’t tolerate months and months of interrupted sleep and sleep deprivation again—it made her completely incapable of functioning, both at home and at work. So she made the choice to have another baby, but to provide a college student with room and board in exchange for getting up in the night to give the baby her bottles. My friend knew her limits and had the freedom and the wherewithal to come up with a workable solution for her problem.
When a teen night owl comes to see me and we determine that she is from a night-owl family, I generally am more aggressive and try to