Some of you just got over the fall time change and now in a few weeks, we spring forward one hour. As a parent, we can spend a lot of time worrying about our children getting enough sleep so we dread Daylight Savings where losing an hour is completely out of our control. The time change can wreak havoc at bedtimes as children adjust to the loss of an hour (imagine being used to a 7pm bedtime and now it’s been moved to what your body feels is 6pm). This change often will make your next few days feel a bit “off”; it may take your child longer to fall asleep with the time change as he or she may not be as sleepy as usual at bedtime.
But Daylight Savings doesn’t have to be something you dread with a little bit of planning. The things we look forward to in Daylight Savings in spring is how it stays lighter for longer and gives us more time outside. The main downside is that it can interfere with our kids’ sleep schedules. If we don’t plan ahead and adjust our kids then it may mean a lot of early mornings and fussy overtired kids until they adjust. Although adults can usually quickly adapt to a new wake up and sleep time, it can be more difficult for kids. Younger children’s sleep schedules are more tied to their internal clocks and not what time a watch says it is. Here are my five tips for parents to easily adjust to turning our clocks forward an hour next month.
1. Start early: It is best to be prepared and start adjusting a week out. Consider shifting your child’s entire schedule (including wake times, eating times, naps and bedtimes) 15 minutes earlier. Repeat this 15-minute shift every other day for the next 3 days. By the time Sunday rolls around, their body will be fully prepared for the new time adjustment.
2. Follow a routine: Children cannot read a clock so your routine is how they know what time it is. Every part of your routine gives children a chance to know what time it is. Mealtimes, snack times, play, naps, bedtime and wake up help children to know what to expect and what is coming next in their day. Follow your daily routine on the new adjusted schedule not just sleep times; all of your schedule will need to change so they understand the cues to the routine shift.
3. Adjust sleep times earlier: You will need to adjust to an earlier bedtime gradually. You will want to compensate with an earlier nap and bedtime schedule and continue to stick to your consistent routine until your kids internal clock adjusts. Often when young children are overtired they wake up even earlier so make sure they are getting their naps and going to bed on time at the new time. The arrival of spring means longer days with more hours of sunlight which is an advantage. When you wake up your child in the morning the more exposure they have to bright light will allow them to naturally regulate their circadian rhythms and help them adjust to the new schedule.
4. All children are unique: Remember that every child is different and they will adjust differently to changes in their sleep schedule. It takes several days to adjust to the new times, so be prepared for you child to be off schedule and a bit crankier than usual during the afternoon as they adjust to an hour less sleep.
5. Check Safety Measures: Also keep in mind that the start and end of daylight saving time are good reminders to get caught up on safety measures around the house, such as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and cleaning out your medicine cabinets.
Daylight Saving Time marks the end of National Sleep Awareness Week. A week where we raise awareness about the importance of sleep and treatment of sleep disorders.
Guest Blog by Julie Miller, founder of Mountain Dreams Family Sleep Consulting
Julie Miller lives in Squamish, BC Canada with her husband and two girls, Sola and Yale. Julie is a Family Sleep Consultant trained by the Family Sleep Institute. This is complimented by her background of a Masters degree in Social Work and extensive experience working with children and families. She is confident addressing a complex set of issues and is comfortable working with individuals from all backgrounds.
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