Day light savings time starts this coming Sunday, March 8th. 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 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 would simply make each nap and bedtime a half hour earlier than their pre-time change norm (which on the new clock is going to look like 30 minutes later) the first few days as they adjust and then move them back another 30 minutes to reach the full time change (which will bring them to their old schedule). For example: if your normal schedule is 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 subtract the additional 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 in total. 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. 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!