by Brittney Stefanic
Daylight savings starts each spring season and it seems to creep earlier and earlier each year! This year it will fall on Sunday, March 10th at 2:00 am. This time of year, we “spring forward” the clocks to give ourselves an entire hour of extra daylight.
This “event” is dreaded by exhausted parents with little ones because the time change can wreak havoc on sleep schedules. Babies, toddlers and school age-children experience a longer time getting used to the time change. 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.
Don’t spring too quickly!
There are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go smoothly. My first recommendation is to leave your clock alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast and make a nice cup of coffee, and then go around your house and change each of your clocks and take a peek at your devices that changed automatically. Psychologically, it will feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time because you get a whole extra hour together!
How do I help my family adjust to Daylight Saving Time?
I will break down the various age groups with the adjustment schedule that is best for each. I 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.
Newborns and young babes without a 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 be 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! Consider yourself lucky, and be sure to reach out to me in the fall when you “real” help as we end the time change J
Infants (6 months to 1 year)
If you have a baby with a predictable bedtime, meaning he 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. 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 him 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!
Toddlers (Age 1 year and up)
For this group, we will split the difference between the old time and the new time. How does that work? If you have a toddler (age one or older), you should put him for his first nap 30 minutes later than normal on Sunday. So if he usually naps at 9:30 am (the clock will now read 10:30 am), you should put him down at 10:00 am. You would do the same with the afternoon nap (if he is still hanging on to one). If the pre-time change naptime was 2:30 pm (clock now reads 3:30 pm), you will split the difference for a nap at 3:00 pm!
For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00 pm, you would put him down at 7:30 pm (which will feel like 6:30). Do this for three nights after the time change, and then on Wednesday night, put him to bed at 7:00 pm or his normal, pre-daylight saving bedtime. Then, on Thursday, you will be safe to move nap time(s) to the original time.
School-age kiddos, teens and adults
Same as toddlers, we will split the difference here. 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! Do this 30 minute adjustment for three nights, then on the Wednesday night put him to bed at 8:00 pm, or his normal (before daylight saving time) bedtime.
This same strategy rings true for adults. Adjust your bedtime by 30 minutes Sunday-Tuesday and then go back to “normal” by Wednesday night. Ta-Da!
Don’t let the bright light bite
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.
What to expect
Even with this gradual change, it may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep, and this is totally normal. Their bodies know it is earlier than the clocks say, so it is likely 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, but in some cases it can take up to a few weeks, especially if sleep is already compromised. Be patient and stay consistent!
Brittney Stefanic is a whole-family certified sleep consultant. She gets that losing an hour of precious sleep can feel terrible for parents, and she hopes these tips help! As an educator, she believes in the power of teaching and loves to support families in meeting their sleep goals through her customized sleep plans. You can follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook @brittneystefanicsleep for access to her free sleep tips and tricks and other opportunities for sleep Q&A sessions.
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