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.