We’ve learned from observing the developmental patterns of newborns that babies come into this world without a very functional circadian clock: Their body rhythms are apparent but not robust. Babies try to sleep, but in the middle of the night they become hungry or they poop, and either of these biological needs is enough to wake them up. They cry because they are hungry or messy and sleepy at the same time. Everything is chaotic.
However, as their circadian rhythms strengthen at 5 to 8 months, it can exert more control over their body functions. The first thing that happens is that they can experience uninterrupted sleep for several hours. Their digestions slow down so they don’t need to be fed at night, and they can hold their bowels until the morning because the hormone levels that promote bowel movement are supressed during sleep. Every day the rhythms strengthen and become more entrenched.
As babies grow into toddlers, family life begins to assign times to bodily activities. We have a prescribed time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, the light sensors in our eyes are programmed to notice changes in the timing of morning light and adjust our internal clock slightly by a few seconds or minutes every day. This “light entertainment,” or syncing the internal clock to the natural day-night cycle, enabled our ancestors to wake up at dawn, no matter the season

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