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.