Erica Desper, a Certified Baby and Child Sleep Coach, shares tips for parents and children to navigate the sleep impacts of the Daylight Saving Time change. Need additional help overcoming bedtime issues or naptime struggles? Erica facilitates classes monthly in both our Center City and Bala Cynwyd offices.
Calls and emails are flying my way in anticipation of the clocks shifting forward. Parents are worried! While springing forward is not quite as disruptive as falling back on the clock, it can leave your little ones feeling “off” for a few days. Don’t panic! Even the most sensitive children can adjust.
Daylight Saving Time with Kids: How to Ease the Adjustment
Here are some tips to help your family prepare and survive:
- An overtired child has a harder time adjusting and coping with change. Make a special effort in the days approaching the time shift to ensure that your child gets adequate naps.
- When the clocks change, be sure to head outside with your baby first thing in the morning – or at least open the curtains and let in the natural light. Early morning exposure to natural light helps to set your baby’s internal clock and adjust to the change. Aim for 30 minutes of sunlight each morning for about a week following the time change.
Transition Methods for the Spring Time Change
There are a few ways to approach the time change. You can proceed with your day as usual, jumping straight to the new clock or, for more sensitive or overtired children, adjust gradually.
Transition Method 1: Proceed As Usual
- If your child is generally well rested and not overly sensitive, you can wake up on Sunday morning and proceed as if nothing has changed. Offer meals, naps, routines and bedtime at the same times on the new clock as you were before.
- Keep in mind, however, that everything will feel a full hour earlier to your child (because it is!) so there is a potential for a bit of a struggle falling asleep. If bedtime is usually 7 p.m. you would put baby down at 7 p.m. on the new clock but it will feel like 6 p.m. to her. As a result, they may not be quite tired at bedtime.
- You may need to be a bit more flexible and offer some extra support at bedtime, but with this method your child should adjust rather quickly – typically within a week.
Transition Method 2: Prepare in Advance
- If your baby is already overtired or tends to be more sensitive to timing, you may want to prepare for the change by gradually shifting baby’s schedule in advance.
- For example, start on Thursday morning waking them up 15 minutes earlier than usual to start the day. Offer meals, naps, and bedtime 15 minutes earlier than usual.
- On Friday, wake them up 15 minutes earlier than you did on Thursday (30 minute earlier than they usually wake).
- Repeat this process on Saturday and Sunday.
- For example, for a baby who generally sleeps from 7:30pm to 7am, you would wake them at 6:45am on Thursday morning and put them to bed at 7:15pm. On Friday, wake them at 6:30am and put them to bed at 7:00pm. On Saturday, wake them at 6:15am and put them to bed at 6:45pm. By Sunday when you wake them up at 6am, it will be 7am on the new clock and their usual wake time.
- Then bedtime can fall at 7:30pm on the new clock as well, without it feeling a full hour early.
- If you are unable to shift the schedule in advance you can implement the gradual shift for 4 days after the fact until you catch up to the new clock.
Transition Method 3: Split the Difference
- All that advanced shifting may not be necessary – or may just be too much calculating – so many of us fall into the camp of splitting the difference and taking one day to catch up to the new clock.
- For example, if they usually wake at 7am and nap at 9am, they could wake at 7am (the new clock will read 8am) and you could put them down at 9:30am, rather than right back down at 9am. This way they will be only 30 minutes undertired rather than 60. And so on throughout the day.
- The following day, shift 30 minutes more so everything is happening at their typical times on the new clock.
- For a non-napping child whose bedtime is 8pm, you could put them down at 8:30pm which will feel like 7:30pm to them. Then the following day, shift 30 minutes again landing back at an 8pm bedtime on the new clock.
Regardless of your approach, be prepared that the days and nights will feel a little strange to your baby. They can’t really understand what is going on! Offer some additional support at bedtime and don’t stress if your child doesn’t adjust quickly. While most adapt within a few days, some can take a few weeks to fully adjust!
And remember that springing forward can mean daylight at bedtime as well as earlier in the morning, which can interfere with your child’s ability to fall or stay asleep. Beware the trap of shifting bedtime later waiting for it to grow dark or of letting them start the day as soon as the sun comes up. Instead, consider purchasing room darkening shades or blackout curtains to keep your little one on track.
Registration is open now for Why Won’t My Child Sleep? and Newborn Sleep 101. Erica Desper will identify the most common causes of pediatric sleep issues and offer tips for helping babies and children fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. For more information, and to reserve your space, please visit our website.