Don’t ‘Fall’ Out of Sync! Helping Your Children Adjust to the end of Daylight Savings Time
Your little one is finally in bed at the right time each night, falls asleep easily sleeping through the night and is a great napper! But then BAM; daylight saving time ends! Does this mean that all your hard work and nights of counting sheep are destined to deteriorate? It doesn’t have to turn into a nightmare if you follow these simple tips.
Consider the recommendations below to learn how to create an effective plan and a seamless transition for your child. For those with preschoolers, you may choose to have a conversation with them about the time change, maybe even creating an activity like drawing pictures of what it will look like outside at dinnertime after the clocks change or talking about the fun events that winter brings such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and December holidays.
Some families prefer to set the clocks back on Saturday night, sleep in on Sunday and modify activities and events based on the new time right away. For other families, however, they have experienced, or are concerned about, experiencing regressions in sleep if their child has not been prepared.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a modified transition to help the body adjust slowly and to respond optimally to the change. If you choose to employ this gradual transition method, you can see from the chart below, bedtime will creep later for several days preceding the end of daylight saving time.
Be sure not to add in new events, movies, roughhousing, television or activities that will stimulate your child. They will already be a little tired, so keeping the evening routine consistent on the nights leading up to the time shift will help your child respond more effectively.
For many children, when they become overly tired they can get a second wind. You should view this behavior as overly-tired signs and respond (or be pro-active in anticipation) accordingly. Dim room lights, engage in quiet activity, even start the bedtime routine at the original time, adding in one extra non-stimulating book, a special song, a brief massage, a prayer or poem to maintain your child’s readiness to fall asleep.
The good news about this time change is that it gets darker earlier so young child, who have no sense of time, will balk little at going to sleep when it’s dark.
Begin before it begins!
The time change starts at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, November 3, 2013. To help your child get used to the new schedule, begin to acclimate them five to seven days before the actual time change. This way they will be somewhat adjusted to the new time because you have been preparing for several days. Start on the Sunday preceding the time change in preparation.
We “fall back” this time of year, which means that we set our clocks back an hour. If you choose to try to get your little one on an adjusted schedule ahead of time, don’t shift the full hour right away. Start with adjusting naps and night sleep 15 minutes later. Two days later add another 15 minutes. On Thursday and Friday adjust yet again another 15 minutes. Try to make your entire routine throughout the day 15 minutes later each couple of days so that by Saturday you are on the last 15 minute adjustment in preparation for Sunday when the time actually does change.
The chart below outlines how to manage the time change systematically based
upon a 7:30 pm bedtime:
Sunday, October 27 to Monday, October 28
Tuesday, October 29 to Wednesday, October 30
Thursday, October 31 to Friday, November 1
Saturday, November 2
8:30pm Set Clocks back an hour at bedtime
Sunday, November 3
Maintain Your Routine
Although you are adjusting the time your child falls asleep during the day and at night, you are not changing their routine throughout the day. If you feed baby before you put him down for a nap, for example, do the same thing, just at the adjusted time. Make your entire routine throughout the day 15 minutes later so that it will be similar to what you will be doing on Sunday when the clock has shifted.
The important thing for the days leading up to the time change when you are trying to get your child on the new schedule is to remain consistent in how you manage your child’s day, afternoon and evening. This may require a little bit of planning on your part but the most important thing is to stick with it.
Give Melatonin a Boost!
Research has indicated that exposing children to sunlight in the early afternoon actually boosts their melatonin production. Consider some backyard time or a walk before dinner to get in some of that melatonin-inducing sunshine!
While most children generally respond well to these modifications, some will resist, particularly if they are a bit older and have more awareness about household activities, such as when the working parent arrives home. Additionally, some baby’s internal clocks are just set for a certain time and more resistant to change. However, stick with the plan and your baby will adjust.
Prepare yourselves and your family ahead of time and you and your family will continue sleeping like babies even after the time has changed.
Karen Schwarzbach is a Certified Sleep Consultant coaching parents throughout North America in healthy sleep practices. She is the Managing Director of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants and the primary instructor for the International Maternity Institutes Maternity and Child Sleep Consultants Certification Program. Karen presents her child and adult sleep seminars to corporations, parents groups and hospitals nationwide. To learn more about her services visit her website at www.babiestosleep.com. Follow her on twitter at @babysleepcoach.