Daylight Savings Time will soon be upon us so let’s make a plan for how to acclimate your child to the change in time. There are quite a few ways to go about this so I’ll go through a couple of options and you can choose which one will work best for your child and family.
The Planner Parents
The “Planners” will probably take comfort in getting a head-start on DST. The best way to do this is by moving bedtime in 15 minute increments beginning 3 nights before we spring forward. It’s best to adjust both the bedtime and wake time simultaneously. Here’s an example:
Your son typically sleeps from 7pm – 7am
Night 1 (March 9th) Bedtime: 6:45pm, Wake time: 6:45am.
Night 2 (March 10th) Bedtime 6:30pm, Wake time: 6:30am
Night 3 (March 11th) Bedtime 6:15pm, Wake time: 6:15am (DST tonight)
Night 4 (March 12th) Bedtime 7pm, Wake time: 7am
The Procrastinator Parents
Oh, hello my people. I’ll admit that even as a sleep consultant, I am more likely to acknowledge DST after it happens, than prepare for it in advance. This works for us because we dictate our own schedule; it would not work for us if we had specific time constraints on our morning routine.
For instance, if you need your daughter to be out of bed at exactly 6am every morning and you wait to adjust her schedule, she's probably going to struggle the morning after DST takes place. This is because waking her at 6am on the morning after DST is like waking her at 5am. Although the clock reads 6am, your daughter’s body is telling her it’s only 5am.
If your child isn’t a sensitive sleeper, you can change the schedule relatively easily within a couple of days. Here’s an example:
Your daughter usually sleeps 7pm – 7am
Day 1 (March 12th) Wake time 7:30am, Bedtime 7:30pm
Day 2 (March 13th) Wake time 7:15am, Bedtime 7:15pm
Day 3 (March 14th) Wake time 7am, Bedtime 7pm
Make sure your child is getting proper exposure to light, whether sunlight or artificial, at the correct times. A child’s wake/sleep pattern is greatly influenced by their circadian rhythm, which uses sunlight exposure as a reference for when to sleep and and when to wake.
Throw open the curtains and let the sunlight stream into the room as soon as your child awakens; this is a great first step in re-setting his or her internal clock. In the evening, keep the lights dim to signal your child’s body that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin, the hormone associated with the onset of sleep, is suppressed when exposed to bright lights. This is why it’s important to keep the room dim as bedtime nears, especially as your child’s body adjusts to the new time.
Some children are more sensitive to schedule changes than others. If you know your child is a sensitive sleeper, consider taking the bedtime transition slower and making the increments shorter to accommodate their needs. That said, some children may be able to handle a quicker transition, using larger increments of time. This is a guideline so you can personalize it to fit the needs of your child.
Whether you adjust your child’s schedule before DST or after, you’ll find it’s not as hard as you once thought if you follow these suggestions.
How many naps should a 4 month old be taking during the day? He sleeps very well at night.
How many naps your little one needs will be influenced by the length of their naps. For example, a child who naps for 30 – 45 minutes will ultimately end up with more naps than a child that consistently sleeps for 1 – 2 hours per nap.
Instead of focusing on how many naps, let’s focus on the max amount of time your little one should be awake before drifting back into dreamland. Even though each baby will be a little different, most often you will find at 4 months a baby can stay awake happily and engaged for about 1.5 – 2 hours. After 2 hours, you will probably see their mood deteriorate and more fussing will ensue. This means they need to rest.
Babies will usually require a shorter time awake during the morning hours and a longer time awake in the evening. If your little one awakens for the day at 7am, you might notice they are already tired by 8am or 8:30am. This is totally normal and you should go ahead put them back to sleep, even though the day has only just begun. You might also notice your little one can stay awake longer, maybe 2 - 2.5 hours in the evening hours (their last stretch of time awake before bed for the night). This is because the drive to be awake is strongest right before the drive to sleep hits in the evening. Interesting, right?
With an average awake time between naps being 1.5 hours, you will most likely wind up with around 4 naps a day. Some children will take more, some less. Keep in mind that over the next couple of months, your little one should be lengthening naps so that he or she is sleeping for 1 – 2 hours. The longer naps will ultimately lead to fewer naps as well. By 6 months, there should be 3 consolidated naps with the last nap of the day being the shortest.
My 20 month old baby stopped sleeping through the night months ago. When she wakes up she's not hungry, her teeth don't seem to be bothering her, she's not gassy or upset at all. She's all smiles and giggles and refuses to go back to sleep for hours. We've tried cutting her naps short and that hasn't helped. It's every night now and I'm about to have another baby so I'm worried I'll be up all night with two babies instead of up and down with one! LOL. It wouldn't be a big deal but I also have a 5 year old and a 3 year old who don't nap so I can't nap during the day with the little ones. Any ideas?
Let's start by talking through what an average schedule might look like for a 20 month old. Typically, you’d expect a child this age to wake any time between 6am – 7am and probably nap around noon (lasting approximately 1.5 -2.5 hours). Bedtime would most likely be around 7pm, possibly a little later, depending on the length of nap. If this schedule is quite different from your daughter’s schedule, then I would consider altering your daughter’s sleeping habits to fit this schedule. If your daughter’s sleep schedule is very similar to this, then read below.
It could be that your daughter has become accustomed to waking at a certain time every night, and so that has become her new routine. Maybe it started off with her being sick, or teething, and has since become her nightly ritual. It’s shocking how quickly children pick up new habits. How do you respond to her wake-ups? Is she allowed to play at this time or is she staying in her crib? If you are engaging with her, or playing with her at this time, she might think that this is a special time for you two to play together and sees this wake-up as a positive experience. Therefore, she continues to wake up.
I would recommend keeping the lights off and not playing or talking during these late night wake-ups. It might be as simple as taking away the positive reinforcement she’s receiving for waking. The main thing to keep in mind is to try and keep her late night wake-ups boring and continue to keep the room conducive to sleep (cool, quiet, and dark).
For more information or for more personalized support, feel free to email me at Kelly@sweetdreamsconsulting.com.
Hi I have a 5 year old. She never wants to sleep. She will get up around 10am or maybe a little later and will go all day without a nap. She will not go to sleep until 2am, sometimes later, and repeat the same cycle every day. I have tried talking to her doctor and have tried everything they have suggested. I have also tried melatonin 5mg up to 10mg and she will not calm down.
I’m sorry to hear you are going through this! It sounds like every night is pretty exhausting for everyone involved. Without receiving more information on what you have tried in the past, it’s hard to gauge how exactly to move forward.
Some of the first questions that come to mind are as follows: What time are you putting your daughter to bed? A common bedtime for a 5 year old is 7pm – 7:30pm. What is the routine for putting her to bed? Is the routine consistent? It’s very important for children at this age to have consistency in their routines. The same steps should be taken every night so that her mind is preparing for sleep before she even steps foot into her bedroom.
I’m also interested in learning what your daughter does during these late-night hours. Is she lying in a dark room or is she playing with toys/electronics or watching television? It could be as simple as she sees there being a benefit for staying up late (extra tv, extra snuggle time with mom or dad, more attention, etc.). If you can see ways that she is receiving positive reinforcement for staying up, I would consider taking away these “rewards”.
It sounds like your daughter has set her own schedule which entails falling asleep around 2am and waking around 10am – 10:30am. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average amount of sleep for a 5 year old is usually between 10-13 hours. Although every child is going to vary on how much sleep they need, your daughter is sleeping significantly less than the average 5 year old.
Although extremely rare, it might be that your daughter requires less sleep than the average 5 year old (I’d be curious to know how her behavior is during the day). If this is the case, I would still advise changing her sleep schedule to be more in line with her circadian rhythm. Meaning, she should fall asleep when it’s dark outside and wake when the sun is coming up. Right now, she is waking long after the sun has risen. I would encourage you to begin waking her earlier in the morning to try and shift the times she is sleeping.
A much more likely scenario is that your daughter has become chronically sleep-deprived. This would explain why she never seems to “calm” down in the evening. When a child does not get enough sleep, their body is in a constant state of stress. If a child doesn’t fall asleep during their “sleep window”, the stress hormone (cortisol) begins pulsing through the body. Increases in cortisol lead to a harder time falling asleep. This could develop into an unfortunate cycle where a super tired child cannot seem to calm down enough to actually fall asleep.
Whether you conclude that your daughter naturally needs less sleep OR your child is overtired, I would suggest you begin by moving your daughter’s wake-time. She should be waking between 6am – 7:30am. By gradually moving her wake-time earlier, you will begin to see how this impacts her bedtime. She should naturally begin needing to go to sleep earlier in the evening (especially if there aren't rewards for staying awake). Once you have her waking at 7am, continue to move her bedtime earlier into the evening. It will take some time to figure this out, but it can be done.
I hope this information gives you a new perspective and some new ideas for how to move forward. If you feel you need a more customized plan for your family, feel free to email me at: Kelly@sweetdreamsconsulting.com.
What do they look like?
It can be very unnerving for a parent to witness their child having a night terror. Here's an example of what a parent may see during a night terror.
You can see the child is screaming for mommy but doesn’t really seem to acknowledge his mom’s presence in the room. That’s because he’s not truly awake and although his eyes are open, he’s not seeing her. Nor can the little boy process what his mom is saying. He also becomes more agitated the more his sister touches him. These are classic signs of a night terror. Another key indicator is the timing of the episode.
When do night terrors happen?
Night terrors happen during the first four hours of sleep, usually when the child is transitioning from Stage IV (non-REM) sleep into another sleep cycle. Because these episodes happen between a very deep state of sleep and a partial awakening, the body is essentially on autopilot. This why the child can still thrash about, sit up or stand, and have full range of motion.
Parents of children who have night terrors should take some comfort in knowing their child is not experiencing a scary dream during these episodes. In fact, if they were to awaken, they would most likely be disoriented (why is mom in my room?) but would have no memory of what they were experiencing. I would not recommend asking your child what they were dreaming about the night before because they weren’t actually dreaming during the night terror. It might even distress the child further to know they were screaming or acting out while having no recollection of the event.
Why do they happen?
A night terror is a physiological response, often related to stress. As an example, an overtired child has a much higher likelihood of experiencing a night terror than a child that is getting adequate sleep. A child that has sleep debt (hours of missed sleep built up over the course of a few days/weeks/months) is also prone to night terrors.
Some children experience night terrors because they feel they “have a job to do.” Sometimes there can be a push and pull between the child’s body and the child’s brain. An example of this would a child that feels they need a parent present in order to sleep. This child may fight sleep because they know that when they do fall asleep, mom leaves the room. In this instance, the child will fight sleep until their body finally collapses from exhaustion. As the child sleeps, their body falls quickly into Stage IV sleep, but their brain is telling them to awaken to make sure mom is still in the room. This could easily transition into a night terror as there are two competing forces at work. It could be any number of sleep associations, this is just one example.
These are not the only reasons behind night terrors, but they are the most common.
How should parents respond?
The most important thing to recognize is that the child is not fully awake during the episode and so your response should be very hands off. If you try to awaken the child, comfort them, or hold them, it will only agitate them more. It’s best to let the child finish the night terror and you will witness how the terror eventually subsides, and the child falls back into a calm state of sleep. Although interaction is discouraged, being in the same room with your child is encouraged. Parents should make sure that the child does not cause harm to themselves or to others during a night terror.
How can night terrors be prevented?
1. Make sure your child is getting an adequate amount of sleep. This is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
2. Have a nightly routine prior to bedtime. The consistency of the routine helps the child’s mind and body relax prior to sleep.
3. Do not expose your child to screens before bed. The bright lights and activity on the screen stimulate the child’s brain, which is not conducive to sleep.
4. If your child is having sleep terrors, take note of what was happening the night before. Do they have feel they have a job to do? How can you lessen the burden they feel to awaken?
5. Sometimes night terrors come when there has been a significant change in a child’s life. If you know your child is prone to sleep terrors, be sure to address changes before they happen. This way, they will be better mentally prepared for the changes coming.
6. Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet during the night time hours.
If you are confident your child is suffering from night terrors and you still aren't sure where to go from here, contact me for a personal consultation.
Any magic tricks for getting a 4 year old and a 2 year old to sleep through the night??? I feel like I've tried everything and I'm due in 6 weeks with #3 so I'd love to have a night or two before this one comes haha .... My oldest takes a short nap and does fairly well but has bad dreams, we cut out tv before bed and my youngest only wants to sleep if she has a hand on me, I haven't slept a full night in 4 years ... I've put them both in a bed together hoping they would do better because they both like to sleep next to someone but so far I just have to go in a few times a night to get my youngest back down and mama's tired! She won't go to sleep or back to sleep for anyone but me and our bedtime routine is very consistent, 6:30 no more tv we do books and puzzles, 7 is bath time and then a good run down with lotion and fresh pjs by 8 were in bed and they are out fast so it's just staying asleep that's the problem, we've tried essential oils, white noise machines, night lights no night lights you name it. I'm just out of ideas.
It sounds like you have a great bedtime routine in place. That’s certainly a huge piece of the puzzle when trying to achieve healthy sleep habits for our little ones. Cutting out TV before bed was also an excellent idea. As a whole, it sounds like the routine is very well established; the only change I would suggest would be to put your 2 year old to bed sooner.
I’m not sure what your 2 year old’s nap schedule consists of, but she should be taking one mid-day nap that should last anywhere from 1 – 2 hours. If it’s closer to that 1 hour mark, then I’d consider moving bedtime closer to 7pm. If it’s closer to the two hour mark, then 7:30pm makes more sense.
I’m afraid there is no ‘magic trick’ to make your children sleep through the night (oh how I wish!!). Essential oils, white noise, soft music...none of these things alone will solve the issue. However, a cool, dark room is needed for optimal sleep.
I understand you put your children in the same bed because they enjoy sleeping next to someone. However, I think it’s reasonable to say they really enjoy sleeping with mom, not just someone. In this instance, putting them in the same bed isn’t helping you achieve your ultimate goal – having both kids sleep through the night. The 2 year old is still calling out to you at night, regardless of bed-sharing with her sibling. It sounds like the 4 year old might be waking unnecessarily during these outbursts as well. I would suggest giving the children separate beds so that if one awakens in the middle of the night, it will not hinder of the sleep of the other child.
Throughout the night, our children are constantly waking. Their sleep cycles are lasting no more than 90 minutes each. When a child sleeps through the night that means the child is able to connect their sleep cycles without intervention from mom or dad, but they are still waking up nonetheless.
Because your 2 year old is dependent on having you next to her when she falls asleep, she has also come to depend on you when she is waking between sleep cycles. In the beginning of the night her sleep is heavier (her drive to sleep is stronger) but as the night progresses, she isn’t as tired and so she’s more aware of the wake-ups between sleep cycles.
If your 2 year old falls asleep with you next to her – why shouldn’t she call to you when she awakens and you are gone? She is trying to recreate the situation in which she originally fell asleep. In this instance, the long-term goal would be to have her fall asleep on her own. The short-term goal could be to have her begin to fall asleep with dad in the room instead of mom.
You would begin by having dad handle the bedtime routine. This of course would have to be agreed upon between you both before beginning. It won’t be easy but if you are consistent (and don’t give in), she WILL be able to fall asleep with dad vs. mom. This would be the first step in breaking the association between needing mom to sleep and getting to your ultimate goal – your daughter sleeping through the night.
Once dad is able to put her to bed, slowly begin giving her more space to fall asleep. As an example, instead of having your 2 year old hold dad’s hand to fall asleep, she can hold a stuffed toy. Then dad can rub her back intermittently, with less and less involvement over the course of a week or two. You aren’t leaving her to fall asleep on her own (something she’s never done), but you’re also giving her a little space to begin to develop sleep habits that don’t involve a parent being present.
This case is more complex with no simple solution. These are habits that have been ingrained for years! However, it’s not insurmountable – children adapt to change quicker than us adults! If you decide you need more support and guidance as you work through these sleep challenges, I’m here to help.
I have a 9 month old that wakes twice a night. He moves around and cries but goes back to sleep. He takes one nap around 12/12:30 and sleeps until 2:30pm. He goes to bed for the night around 6:30pm. My other two kids slept through the night! What gives? Why is he still waking up?
Although he isn’t fully sleeping through the night, it is still pretty awesome that he’s found a way to get himself back to sleep! Even if he does fuss for a bit, it’s a good sign that he can put himself back down. When I look at your son’s schedule, I’m inclined to think he may be overtired.
Typically a 9 month old will have two naps a day. The first would be around 9am for 1-2 hours and then a second nap around 1pm for another 1-2 hours. Right now your son is only getting 2 hours of sleep total during the day and he might need a little more. I would suggest trying for two naps a day and see how he reacts.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, oftentimes if children get more sleep during the day, they actually sleep better at night. This could be the case with your son. If a child is overtired, it’s harder for them to connect their sleep cycles. All children wake during the night but most parents consider “sleeping through the night” to mean their child is able to connect their sleep cycles without crying out. Your son is connecting some of his sleep cycles, but when I hear of a child that does still randomly call out at night – it’s usually due to overtiredness.
The good news is your son can make up any sleep debt he might have by the addition of another nap during the day. If for some reason that second nap isn’t feasible, then consider moving his bedtime even earlier – such as 6PM.
My son is 6 months and is a horrible napper! He sleeps 3 or 4 (sometimes 5!) time during the day but only for 30 minutes each time. I feel like I can never get anything done around the house because his naps are so short!! Why isn’t he sleeping longer?
It’s hard to determine the exact cause of the short naps without understanding more about his routine and schedule. However, I can give you a few tips to get things moving in the right direction and you can always follow up with me later about an actual consultation.
At 6 months of age, most children will be taking 2 -3 naps per day. Usually one nap around 9am, another around 12:30pm or 1pm, and another short cat-nap around 3pm or 3:30pm. The first two naps can range in length between 1 -2 hours, just depending on the child and their sleep needs. The third nap is usually only 30 minutes or so.
When you are putting your son down for naps, is it around these times? If not, I would encourage you start moving naps towards the times listed above.
Here are a few other things to consider.
Naps often do take some time to come together but your son is a great age to make some adjustments. Good luck and feel free to reach out further questions.
Can you give any advice on how to handle bedtime during the week versus how to handle bedtime on the weekend? My daughter is 7 and she’s currently going to bed about an hour later on the weekends but by Monday, she’s whining to stay in bed when I wake her for school. At this point, I’m just wondering what the recommendation is.
Balancing the school schedule with weekend activities can be tough.
Generally speaking, children are more sensitive to sleep changes than adults. This is important to keep in mind as you plan for your weekend activities. I recommend you keep bedtime within a 30 minute window, regardless of whether it’s the weekend or a weekday.
This is especially true right now because of the recent time change. Your daughter could be dealing with some sleep debt attributed to “losing” an hour with the onset of Daylight Savings Time (DST). Her body could still be adjusting so I recommend making sleep a priority and not veering too much from that weekday bedtime.
Once your daughter is caught up on sleep you can be a little more lenient. For instance, maybe once every couple of weeks you can plan for one night a week (Saturday would be preferred) where she’s awake later. If a child is getting adequate sleep on a consistent basis, they can handle those late nights without issue.
If your daughter continues to struggle with waking up in the morning, I would encourage you to consider an earlier bedtime.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) can wreak havoc on even the most seasoned parents. Once DST occurs, parents are often left with a grumpy child that’s clearly tired but refuses to sleep later into the morning.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. Prepping for DST just four days in advance can make all the difference. Below are 3 easy tips to get your child back on track with sleep in no time.
1. Move bedtime incrementally
Push back bedtime in 15 minutes increments over the course of 4 nights. For example, if your child’s bedtime is typically 7pm, shift bedtime to 7:15pm on the first night. The second night push back bedtime to 7:30pm. Continue to shift bedtime later into the evening until you are putting your child to bed at 8pm. On DST your child should go to bed a full hour later than their previous schedule. This way, your child will be better equipped the following night to handle their 7pm bedtime (which was 8pm the night before).
2. Shift the morning routine
While you are working towards a later bedtime, you'll also want to shift your child’s morning routine. If your child normally wakes at 7am, try to start the day 15 minutes later. So the first morning, try to keep him or her in bed until 7:15am. The following morning, try for 7:30am. You can't necessarily force a child to go back to sleep for an extra 15 minutes but you can delay the onset of their usual morning activities, such as brushing their teeth or beginning breakfast.
Instead, keep them in their room in as calm a state as possible. Continue this incremental change until wake time is at 8am (which will be 7am once DST occurs). Shifting the wake time later is ultimately harder than changing the bedtime so try and be patient as your child adjusts.
3. Incorporate proper light
Make sure your child is getting proper exposure to light, whether sunlight or artificial, at the correct times. A child’s wake/sleep pattern is greatly influenced by their circadian rhythm, which uses sunlight exposure as a reference for when to sleep and wake.
Keep the lights bright in the evening to help your child’s body recognize it should be awake at this time. The bright lights will also lessen your child’s production of melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep.
However, 20 to 30 minutes prior to bedtime, go ahead and begin dimming the lights to assist your child in preparing for sleep. Additionally, in the morning you'll want to reduce your child’s exposure to light until the appropriate time (shifting 15 minutes later each morning). Blackout shades are especially helpful in aiding this process.
Every child is different...
Some children are more sensitive to schedule changes than others. If you know your child is a sensitive sleeper, consider taking the bedtime transition slower and making the increments shorter to accommodate their needs.
That said, some children may be able to handle a quicker transition, using larger increments of time. This is a guideline so you can personalize it to fit the needs of your child. Just keep in mind, that all three steps should be taken simultaneously for the transition to work.
By following these steps, your family will be much better prepared to transition your child's bedtime for Daylight Savings Time.