A Baby Sleep Expert's Tips for Daylight Saving Time
We spring ahead this weekend, which can be a scary thought for parents whose children have sleep routines that are working. To help make the transition smoother, we asked our friend Rachel Mitchell, a certified Pediatric & Maternity Sleep Consultant and the founder of My Sweet Sleeper, for her tips for preparing the whole family for the time change ahead. Read on for Rachel's expert advice.
Preparing to Spring Ahead
With the start of Daylight Saving Time around the corner (March 13, 2022), most of us are preparing to set our clocks one hour ahead as we spring forward. Thankfully, this means the days will start to feel longer with more sunlight, but if you’re worried about how the time change will affect your child’s sleep, you’re not alone!
Personally, I can’t wait for spring this year, but after “losing” an hour of sleep in the morning, the only place I want to be springing is back in my bed! And the thought of trying to re-work bedtimes and feeling confused and off for about a week is quite the headache for those with little kids.
The good news is, you can minimize the effects of the time shift and help to make it a smoother transition for your entire family. Here’s how…
1) Gradually shift your child’s nap and bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier each day, starting about one week before DST. Truthfully, the concept of shifting bedtimes can feel a bit like rocket science, so, to keep it simple, I recommend gradually shifting bedtime earlier so that your child actually feels ready for sleep when the clocks move forward and 7pm really feels like 6pm. But if you forget, don’t worry! You can also just put your child to bed slightly earlier the night before, that way they still get enough sleep heading into the time change. Much like traveling to a different time zone, it is going to take some time for your internal sleep clocks to adjust regardless of how prepared you are, so going to bed earlier to avoid overtired little ones is a good idea in general.
2) Invest in an ok-to-wake clock for your toddler. This is a great option for eager toddlers who are used to getting up and running into your room in the morning. Having a child-friendly alarm clock that turns a light on to indicate it is time to get up can make a big difference to a child trying to adjust. The great thing is, if you already have an early morning riser, the time change will actually help to shift those early morning wakings to a more manageable time! Even though this spring DST is the one where you “lose” an hour of sleep, it’s typically the easiest one for parents!
3) Encourage light during the day and darkness for sleep. Our body’s internal sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) are regulated by light and darkness and heavily influenced by our environment. This is why many of us wake up when the sun rises and start to feel sleepy shortly after the sun sets (although many of us go to bed way past sunset). You can help your child’s 24-hour sleep cycle by exposing her to light first thing in the morning and making sure that her room is dark during naps and for bedtime. If your child’s bedtime is on the earlier side, it may get harder to put her down as the days get longer, so blackout shades are a good option in this case.
4) Keep routines consistent. As we enter a new season, schedules and activities can tend to feel a bit chaotic and your children often experience the impacts of this the most. Even with the time shift, it is still important to stick closely to your current routine, only making minor changes if possible.
5) Try to be patient with your kids. As we all know, the effects of sleep deprivation impact the entire family. Children are just as confused about the time change as we are, and although our bodies will eventually adjust naturally, some have a harder time than others. If you notice meltdowns become a bit more frequent after the time change, try and remember that lack of sleep could be the culprit. I encourage you to set aside more quiet time and maybe even an extra nap while you all try to adjust to this new season.
Your children are more resilient than you might think, so try not to worry too much about the impact daylight saving time will have. After all, it is only the difference of ONE hour! Our bodies know what to do, and sometimes the best thing is to just go with it and hope for the best!
About Rachel Mitchell