Day light savings time starts this coming Sunday, March 12th. I look forward to this day each year as it means spring is not far behind. The buds will soon be appearing on the arms of the tree branches and flower bulbs will soon be poking their way out of the cold soil. I know, I know….with all of this we turn our clocks forward and miss out on an hour of precious sleep. Fear not, while we do actually lose an hour of sleep that first night – this change is nothing to lose sleep over. It tends to be less problematic for most little ones than the end of Daylight Savings in the fall (and may even help parents of early risers finally establish a later wake time). Here are some tips to get through the time change with minimal sleep loss:
Tick Tock, Tick Tock – Here’s How to Reset Your Child’s Clock
- If your child is generally adaptable to schedule changes or is taking only one nap or no naps a day, your best bet is to switch everything (wake-time, nap, bedtime, meals, etc.) to the new clock “cold turkey.” Note that you may have to rouse your child at his/her normal wake-time for a few days because of the loss of one hour of sleep. Exposing your child to light in the morning and continuing with all of your normal activities will help reinforce the new wake time.
- If your child is napping multiple times during the day (or you are concerned that moving to the new time “cold turkey” will be too stressful for both of you), you can gradually back up their sleep routine (because despite the clock being an hour later – to your body its an hour earlier!) by spreading out the hour change over a few days. This slower change is easier for many, as going to sleep a full hour earlier than their norm may present a struggle. Using this approach you move their nap backwards for their body clock by 30 minutes by making the time on the real clock 30 minutes later. For example – if you child napped at 9am pre-time change, you would move naptime to 9:30am on the new time clock as to their body clock this is just 8:30am. For a snapshot of your day – if your pre-time schedule was Nap 1: 9am, Nap 2: 12pm, Nap 3: 3pm, bedtime 7pm, on Sunday it will change to Nap 1: 9:30, Nap 2: 12:30, Nap 3: 3:30pm and bedtime 7:30pm. After a day or two you can add the remaining 30 minutes to bring your child all the way to their old schedule on the new clock time, making their sleep time an hour earlier on in total for their body clock. This will help many children ease into the time change more smoothly.
- Whichever way you choose to handle adjusting your child’s schedule, it is very important to stay consistent in your regular daily routine and move all cues along with the shift to their sleep schedule. For example, if you always have breakfast before Nap 1, lunch before Nap 2, snack before Nap 3, and dinner, bath and a book before Bedtime – make sure this is still your routine. These regular parts of your child’s day actually act as “cues” telling their brain that sleep is coming next. Keeping them consistent will help their bodies adjust even more quickly.
Assist Your Child by Controlling Their Environment
- As we are shifting our internal clocks to wake an hour earlier in the morning, exposing your child to natural light in the morning hours is key. Throw open all blinds upon waking and make sure to get out for some fresh air and natural light in the first half of the day. Still too cold to play outside, spending time in a sun drenched room will work too.
- In the evening, we need to adjust our bodies to be ready for bed an hour. Keep your house dim in the hour or so leading up to bedtime – closing the blinds, shutting off any unnecessary lights and keeping the activity level in your home as calm as possible will ease your child into a sleepy frame of mind even if there is still daylight outside.
- As the days grow longer and it stays brighter out well into the evening, it is crucial to ensure that your child’s room is as dark as possible so that it is conducive to sleep. One suggestion is to invest in room darkening or “blackout” curtains, which are readily available at many stores and online, and do a great job of keeping light out of little ones’ rooms. My favorite are from Redi Shade, they are quick, easy, economical and block out light better than most pricey shades.
No matter how you choose to handle DST, your well-rested child will easily adjust in a just a few days. Enjoy the extra hour of sunlight and have a happy spring!
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 6 year old Stella, their 4 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at email@example.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook & Twitter for more great sleep tips!