I like to joke that Daylight Saving was created by someone who did NOT have young children. Twice a year we have to change our clocks and with that comes about a week of our sleep being out of whack, children and adults alike. And for parents it can be even more difficult because our kids then begin waking way too early or don’t want to go to bed because the sun is still out. In a few weeks, on November 4th, Daylight Saving Time ends and our clocks will change at around 2am. In order to keep your child’s sleep schedule on track, here are some steps you can take for a seamless time change transition.
1. Adjust Bedtime Beforehand
About a week prior to the end of Daylight Saving (depending on your child’s age), begin to adjust your child’s naps, meals and bedtimes every 2 days or so. For infants, shift by 10 minutes each day. For toddlers, shift by 15 minutes and for older children you can adjust by 30 minutes a couple days before. By Saturday, bedtime should be an hour later than normal. The reason we gradually shift bedtime is so that you slowly shift their circadian rhythms and prevent your child from getting a second wind at night. The same increments should be followed for naps AND wake times. Adjusting the time when you get your child out of bed is important because we want to allow their body the room to get used to being at rest until it’s time to actually wake for the day. So in the week prior, if, for instance, you are adjusting by 15 minutes and your child’s wake time is 6:30am, you would not get her until 6:45 on the first 2 mornings.
2. Stick to Your Routine
Regardless of what the situation is, staying consistent with bedtime and wake time routines is key. If your child wakes up too early in relation to your family’s schedule, don’t take her out of the crib or allow her to leave her bed until you are ready to start your day.
3. Calm the House Down at Night
Prior to bedtime, begin to quiet things down. Dim the lights and turn off screens and TVs. While the iPad may be a helpful distraction for your child as you are trying to clean up from dinner, the blue light emitted from screens can actually trick the brain into thinking it needs to stay awake longer, thus making it difficult for your child to fall asleep. Give your child’s mind and body the chance to relax and prepare for a well-rested night of sleep.
4. Start the Day Cheerfully
When it is time to wake, cheerfully enter your child’s room, letting her know it is time to get up. Open the blinds and let the natural light in which will alert your child’s brain that it is time to start the day.
5. Create the Perfect Sleeping Environment
Blackout curtains and a noise machine can make a world of difference in your child’s sleep. The curtains can block out any evening or early morning light and a noise machine helps drown out the sounds other members of your family might make. Both of these items will help your child fall and stay asleep until you are ready for her to start the day.
These simple steps can help you and your family transition through this, let’s be honest, annoying and dreaded night. If you are unable to make these adjustments beforehand, you can still do so in the week following the time change. But as I tell all my clients, consistency is key. When you stick to your routine, you will ensure that any transitions or regressions will be temporary. If you find that things are not coming together the way you feel they should, or your child is struggling with poor naps or nighttime sleep, click here to schedule your free "Get to Know You" call.