You think you’ve got sleep mastered. Your little one goes to bed at a consistent time, naps well (if she is still a napper) and sleeps through the night. But then daylight saving time begins! Does this mean that all your hard work goes to waste? It doesn’t have to turn into a nightmare if you follow these simple tips.
The time change starts at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, March 13, 2016. We “spring forward” this time of year, which means that we set our clocks forward an hour. This may be difficult for your child because bedtime will be coming earlier. The recommendations below will help you create an effective plan and seamless transition for your child.
1. Begin before it begins!
To help your child get used to the new schedule, begin to acclimate them five to seven days before the actual time change. This way they will be somewhat adjusted to the new time because you have been preparing for several days. Start on the Sunday preceding the time change in preparation.
2. Start Slowly
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a modified transition to help the body adjust slowly and respond optimally to the change. If you choose to employ this gradual transition method, bedtime will creep earlier for several days preceding the end of daylight saving time.
If you choose to try to get your little one on an adjusted schedule ahead of time, don’t shift the full hour right away. Start with adjusting naps and night sleep 15 minutes earlier the Sunday before the time change. Every two days, push it another 15 minutes earlier. By Saturday you’ll be on the last 15 minute adjustment in preparation for Sunday when the time actually does change.
3. Maintain Your Routine
Although you are adjusting the time your child falls asleep during the day and at night, continue to use the same routine, just at the adjusted time. Dim the lights, engage in quiet activity, read a non-stimulating book, sing a special song, a give a brief massage to maintain your child’s readiness to fall asleep. With it being lighter later, you want to make sure that your room darkening efforts ‘communicate’ bedtime.
4. Remain Consistent
The important thing for the days leading up to the time change when you are trying to get your child on the new schedule is to remain consistent in how you manage your child’s day, afternoon and evening. This may require a little bit of planning on your part but the most important thing is to stick with it.
5. Give Melatonin a Boost!
Research has indicated that exposing children to sunlight in the early afternoon actually boosts their melatonin production. Consider some backyard time or a walk before dinner to get in some of that melatonin-inducing sunshine!
6. Be Patient
While most children generally respond well to these modifications, some will resist, particularly if they are a bit older and have more awareness about household activities. For pre-schoolers, you may choose to have a conversation with them about the time change, maybe even creating an activity like drawing pictures of what it will look like outside at dinnertime after the clocks change or talking about the fun events that spring brings such as pool parties, barbeques and evening playtime in the yard.
Additionally, some babies have internal clocks set for a certain time and may be more resistant to change. However, stick with the plan and your little ones will eventually adjust.
Prepare yourselves and your family ahead of time and you will continue sleeping like babies even after the time has changed.
Guest Blogger Karen Schwarzbach is an sleep expert with over seventeen years experience working on consulting and educational programming for parents, healthcare providers and corporate wellness programs.