How to Prep Little Sleepers for Daylight Savings Time
Updated March 10, 2017
Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday, March 12 at 2 a.m. While it's a safe bet that most of us look forward to the daylight sticking around later at the end of the day (sunset will be at 6:09 pm Saturday and 7:11 pm on Sunday), parents already struggling with getting elementary kids to school on-time can't be too excited about what is now 7 am becoming 8 am and sunrise jumping from 6:29 am on Saturday to 7:27 am on Sunday. Sleep consultant and Well Rested Baby founder Amy Lage shares tips for helping little ones deal with the time change:
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 make the switch gradually over a few days by only making each nap and bedtime a half hour later. For example: if your normal schedule is Nap 1: 9am, Nap 2: 12pm, Nap 3: 3pm, bedtime 7pm, 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 additional 30 minutes to bring your child all the way to the new clock time. This will help your child 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.