Daylight saving time is about to begin, and some of us are wondering how we can ease the transition for our family. There are two strategies you can use to make the transition easier. One is to prep before the time change, and another is to do so afterwards—this gives you leeway in deciding which works best for your family!
Spring forward, fall back.
Daylight saving time is a time change. It happens in the spring when we “spring forward” and set our clocks ahead one hour. In the fall, we “fall back” and set our clocks back one hour. The reason for daylight saving time is to make better use of sunlight during the day–to have more daylight hours after work or school (and before bedtime). But did you know, not every country observes daylight savings time; some have permanent summertime, while others never change their clocks at all!
If you’re a parent and your kids are wondering why daylight savings time happens: explain it to them! Make sure they know that no one is exempt from this event—even adults feel the effects!
How to Help Your Baby or Toddlers adjust to Daylight Savings Time.
A. Strategy “Start Early”:
● Step 1: Since we will be moving forwards with our clocks, you will want to move BACK in increments before the transition happens. So, a week or so before, jot down the times that your child wakes up, eats, and goes to bed.
● Step 2: Make gradual shifts over a period of two to four days:
○ Shifting in 30-minute increments in the 2 days leading up to the time change.
○ Shifting in 15-minute increments in the 4 days leading up to the time change.
● Step 3: Make sure that you shift everything else as well! So, morning wake up, lunch and dinner. Example for 4 days: If your child currently goes to bed at 7:00 pm, then you will want to start shifting them back 4 days in advance, so:
Wednesday Night: 6:45 pm
Thursday Night: 6:30 pm
Friday Night: 6:15 pm
Saturday Night: 6:00 pm
Sunday Night: 7:00 pm (The old 6:00 pm)
B. Strategy “Split the Difference”
• Step 1: My recommendation to all parents is just to leave the clocks alone! You should set your alarm as usual and wake up at the same time. After you have had some coffee and breakfast, then change all your clocks to reflect the new time zone.
• Step 2: That day, you will shift your child’s naps, mealtimes, and bedtime by half an hour. If the child does not take naps now, that is fine; just shift the wakeup time and bedtime.
• Step 3: The fourth night, simply put your child to bed at their normal time.
Remember to adjust wakeups, mealtimes, and naps to the correct time on day 4 as well! Example (Baby and/or Toddler): If your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30, you will adjust this to 10:00 am, for the three days after the time change. Do the same for the afternoon nap. If your little one goes to sleep at 7:00 p.m., then put that child to bed at 7:30 p.m. for the first three days following the time change. (This will FEEL like 6:30 pm to your child.)
But if you have children who are in daycare or school and have a set schedule that cannot be adjusted until the day of the time change, then those are not a reasonable tactics. Here are the ways to handle the time change for your pre school and school-aged children to help your child adapt to the time change as quickly and effectively as possible!
Tip 1: Exercise and Sunlight
Sunlight and exercise are some of the biggest contributors to a good night’s sleep. Exercise helps to burn off energy and gets the body ready for bedtime, but the sun also plays a very interesting role here. Blue light, during the day, helps enormously in melatonin production, which is the key hormone when it comes to sleep. It also aids in regulating our internal clocks, which naturally produces cortisol during the day for energy and alertness, and then melatonin when it gets dark to help us ease into sleep. The sun, despite its appearance as an orange ball of flame in the sky, is actually a blue light source. Getting your child a healthy dose of sunlight during the day, will help them sleep better on their first night of daylight savings time, than if they stayed cooped up inside all afternoon.
Tip 2: Bedtime Routine
A child’s bedtime routine is a powerful way to promote sleep. It does so much more than just getting your child dressed for bed. When a bedtime routine is done repetitively in the same order every night, it signals to the brain that sleep time is coming soon—which starts its release of melatonin and shuts off cortisol. By the time your child lays their head on the pillow, they are already prepared for a great night’s sleep.
Tip 3: Slight Adjustments at Bedtime
Even though your child may have to get up at the same time in the morning, you may still be able to make gradual changes around bedtime. Moving their bedtime either forward or back, depending on which way the clocks are changing, by 15 minutes every two or three nights after the time change, can lessen the effect it has on their schedule compared to a one-hour switch overnight. Keep in mind that overtiredness is the adversary of good sleep, so whatever you do, don’t keep them up for an extra hour the night before the clock moves forward. Always error on the side of more sleep. If they wake up a little early in the morning, that’s OK, and more desirable than having them stay awake for too long at night.
If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minutes, so that they can see if it is 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm, but they cannot see the minutes. Set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30 it says 7:00 and let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that, by the end of the week, they will be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.
Make sure they get enough sleep. When we’re overtired, we struggle to adapt to new things or change our routines.
Tip 4: Remain Consistent
Remember that routine and consistency is so important when it comes to your child’s sleep. If your child is struggling with sleep, review their bedtime routine and the time that they are going to bed. If it is fluctuating constantly, that could be a major factor in why they are having sleep struggles. And with the days starting to get longer now, resist the urge to allow your kids to stay up later than their normal, earlier bedtime. Try not to let your children sleep in on the weekends. This will throw off their internal clocks and cause them to be tired during the week. Consistency is key!
Make it a fun transition!
Set an alarm for when it’s time for everyone in the house – including pets – to get up and go outside for some fresh air and exercise together! Exercise, fresh air and sunlight will all help towards a good nights sleep! And always keep in mind, your child’s body needs time adjust to this shift in sleeping habits. It takes everyone’s bodies—adults included—roughly one week on average to get used to any kind of change, so be patient and understanding as your child deals with and adjusts to having his sleep schedule changed up overnight. By planning though, you can help your children adjust easily! The most important thing to remember is that your child needs sleep. It’s vital for their health and well-being (and yours too!), so make sure you do everything you can to ensure they get enough rest each night.
Missy Morrison Charko is a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant and Founder of Say Yes to The Rest Pediatric Sleep Consulting . She resides in British Columbia with her husband and two young children. She provides Private Sleep Coaching within the Thompson-Okanagan Region and remotely across Canada and the USA. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter with more tips and tricks at her website: www.sayyestotherest.com.