Isn’t it amazing how moving the clocks back just one hour has the potential to throw your kids’ routines into a bit of chaos? The good news…it doesn’t have to. We can do several things ahead of the time change to prepare our children for success. Read on for tips to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Tips for everyone
Spend lots of time outdoors: Physical activity will help ensure that your little one is tuckered out in time for naps and bedtime. Natural light is one of the best ways to reset our internal clocks.
Be sure your child’s sleep environment is ideal: Cave-like darkness and white noise will make a big difference. Consider using an “OK to Wake” clock for your children (toddler age and older) that lights up when it is time for their day to start.
Keep them well rested: With any change to schedule or routine, the more rested your children can be leading up to the change, the more successful the transition will be. Spend time now getting naps and night sleep in order so they are not overtired. A well-rested sleeper will handle this transition much more smoothly than an overtired child!
Keep the routine consistent: Continue with your calm and predictable bedtime routine so your child knows exactly what to expect. In other words, Sunday, November 3rd, is probably not the night to have your kids stay up late or invite guests over to the house. Instead, stick to your typical schedule as much as you can.
Lighting: For the first week or two after Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends, keep the lights a bit dimmer for the first hour or so after waking in the morning and the lights a bit brighter for the last hour of the day. This will help reset your child’s internal clock to the new time.
Start Preparing a Week Ahead….
- Start the transition to the new time several days before the end of DST. Shift the bedtime later by 10 minutes each day leading up to November 3rd. Be sure to adjust the entire day (naps, bedtime, and meals) and not just sleep times. By Sunday, your child’s body will already be on the way to adjusting to the new time.
- If bedtime is usually at 7 pm, try this schedule the week before:
Tuesday 7:10 pm bedtime
Wednesday 7:20pm bedtime
Thursday 7:30 pm bedtime
Friday 7:40 pm bedtime
Saturday 7:50 pm bedtime
Sunday 7 pm bedtime (adjusted to the new time)
Or go cold turkey….
- For some children, there is no need to prepare your child for the time change. Starting Sunday morning, move all meals, bathtime and sleep to the new time. Within a few days his body will adjust.
Tips for making Sunday as smooth as possible
- Adjust the entire day to the new time including wake-up, naps, bedtime, and meals.
- If your child wakes early, do your best to keep him in his crib or bed until his regular wake-time. Delaying his exposure to natural light will help reset his internal clock.
- If necessary, you can meet halfway for naptime. For example, if your little one naps at 9 am, you can put him down at 8:30 am for the first day while he adjusts to the new time. The rest of the day will follow suit.
Keep the course, have realistic expectations, and give it time
- If your children easily adjust to the time change, you may be those lucky parents who get an extra hour of sleep. Most of you, however, should expect that your children will wake for the day up to an hour earlier until their bodies have adjusted to the new time. It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for your little one’s internal clock to reset to the new time. As with all sleep training, the most important thing is for Mom and Dad to approach this transition with patience, confidence, and consistency.
Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. You can find out more information at www.sleepyheadsolutions.com and www.facebook.com/sleepyheadsolutions.