By Brittney Stefanic
Losing an hour…
Daylight savings starts each spring season and it seems to creep earlier and earlier each year! This year the change is happening this Sunday (March 14th) at 2:00 am. This time of year, we will “spring forward” the clocks to give ourselves an entire hour of extra daylight.
Most parents don’t mind the time change in the fall when gaining an extra hour of sleep, but the idea of the time change in spring sends fear through parent’s bones when they hear they are going to miss out on 60 sweet minutes of slumber. And rightfully so!
The start of daylight saving time is dreaded by parents because even changing time by one hour can wreak havoc on sleep schedules. Babies, toddlers and school age-children experience a longer “lag time” adjusting to the time change, especially if they have a fairly defined schedule already.
This “lag” results because they to be more structured in their bedtime and wake time than adults. So changing the clocks, by even one hour, has a greater (and longer lasting) effect on children as compared to adults.
As Sleeper Teachers® we constantly have parents asking for the best way to handle daylight saving time and children’s sleep. So without any further ado… Here ya go!
How do I help my family adjust to the schedule of Daylight Saving Time?
We will break down the various age groups with the adjustment schedule that is best for each. We have included an example scenario for each group because that will make it easier to follow! This is one of those things that shouldn’t be complicated, but it can be. Don’t overthink it since we’ve already done the thinking for you.
Please notice that for springing forward there isn’t a whole lot of “prep” you can do with schedules. Instead, the prep is more for the sleep environment and routine and the schedule changes happen starting Sunday!
Newborns and young babes without a set sleep schedule
If your little one’s bedtime is not predictable (mostly for babies under six months old), simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone. If your little one normally goes to bed 1.5 hours after his last nap of the day, then you will follow that as normal.
At this age, adjustments happen quickly as parents are typically following time spent awake rather than a set bedtime! This is one major benefit of following wake windows!
Infants and Toddlers (6 months to 4 years)
If you have a baby or toddler with a predictable bedtime, meaning babe is always going to bed around the same time each night, you will adjust the difference by making bedtime 15 minute EARLIER than their “new normal”.
For example, if bedtime is normally 7:00 pm, the clock will now read 8:00 (on Sunday night). Rather than trying to make it to bedtime at 8:00 pm for bedtime, you will move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night (from the “new” time) until you reach the normal time. So Sunday night you would put babe down at 7:45 pm (will feel like 6:45), Monday night at 7:30 pm, Tuesday night at 7:15 pm and Wednesday night will be back to normal at 7:00 pm! This 15-minute gradual approach will not impact the awake times of your little one as much as adjusting the full hour would.
We recommend this same technique for naps, too. A 10:00 nap (clock will now read 11:00), will take place at 10:45 on Sunday, then 10:30 on Monday, then 10:15 on Tuesday, then 10:00 by Wednesday.
School-age kiddos, teens and adults
For the older kiddos, we will split the difference here with a 30-minute adjustment. If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 8:00 pm (clock now reads 9:00 pm), you would put him to bed at 8:30 pm on Sunday night, the first night of the time change. This will feel like 7:30 to them, but it is better than adjusting the full hour and having it feel like 7:00 pm!
Stick with this 30-minute adjustment for three nights, then on the Wednesday night put your kiddo to bed at 8:00 pm, or their normal (before daylight saving time) bedtime.
This same strategy rings true for adults, as well! Adjust your bedtime by 30 minutes Sunday-Tuesday and then go back to “normal” by Wednesday night. Ta-Da!
How do I help my family adjust to the sunshine of Daylight Saving Time?
Later sunsets are nice, except for sleep!
Another tip that is helpful this time of year is to darken the bedrooms in your house in the evening! As we get closer and closer to summer, kiddos may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside.
Darkening the room can be very helpful to avoid any extra bedtime protest. Even though there are extra hours of daylight, little ones still need the same amount of sleep after we switch to daylight saving time so it is important to maintain a bedtime that is similar to what you had during the winter!
Watch out for the sneaky evening!
We often hear from parents that this time change is particularly tough because it is easy to lose track of what time it is in the evening. You get the kiddos home from school/activities/daycare and next thing you know, it is 8:00 pm and you haven’t even started to cook dinner!
Our advice here is to set an alarm on your phone to signal for you the start of dinner and winding down. It may sound silly, but if you can get your own evening on track, you are far more likely to see success with your keeping your family on a nice routine.
What to expect this sleep-filled spring forward
Even with the gradual changes outlined above, it may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep, and this is totally normal. Since the time is different and their bodies think it is earlier than the clocks say, it is possible that they won’t be as tired at bedtime, initially.
This can be shocking to parents because we are just talking about a 30 minute, or even 15 minute, difference if you follow the plan above. But, change is change! It usually takes about a week for the full adjustment to made. Be patient and consistent, and get your mindset right… It will happen!
Got questions about springing forward?
With the time change coming up, we want to be sure that you have all the sleep support you need because that's just the way we roll. We've invited sleep expert and founder of Sleeper Teachers, Brittney, to manage our account on Thursday, March 11th to answer all your daylight saving time and sleep questions.
Head to our IG account to get your questions answered!
Enjoy the extra sunshine, the fresh blooms and a sleep-filled spring forward!
Brittney Stefanic is a certified whole-family sleep consultant and founder of Sleeper Teachers Sleep Consulting. As a work at home mom boss and former classroom teacher, she understands that this one hour time change can be a doozy. As a sleep educator, Brittney believes in the power of sleep and knows that we all need more of it to stay healthy. Brittney and her team love educating and supporting families around the world in finding sleep solutions. You can follow the teachers on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook @sleeperteachers for sleep tips and tricks.