How to Survive Daylight Savings Time

To avoid having overtired and fussy kids, use these 5 strategies to help transition your child’s routine without interruption.

daylight-savings

A common joke among parents is that after having kids, we never get to sleep in again.

While it’s true that most young children naturally wake up between 6-7:00 a.m., having to wake up extra-early becomes a shared worry from parents as the end of daylight saving time approaches. A child that was waking up at the just manageable hour of 6:00 a.m. will suddenly be up and at ‘em at 5:00 a.m. once we move the clocks back the first Sunday in November. This isn’t obviously quite as manageable.

The early start not only forces us adults to get out of bed before the clock tells us it’s time, but it’s hard on our children’s bodies to begin the day an hour earlier as well.

In order to avoid  overtired and fussy kids (and parents!), the following  strategies will help you transition your household routine back to standard time without interruption.

#1. Understand What is Happening

“It’s 5:00am. I’m tired and my kids aren’t. Need coffee intravenously.”

No, no, I don’t mean like that. What I mean is to have an understanding of how the science of sleep works prior to the time change.

Your child’s sleep is regulated by an internal biological clock. This sleep/wake clock, along with others that regulate our body temperature, digestive systems and hormone fluctuations are called our circadian rhythms. These are collectively controlled by one master clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the brain between the optic nerves.

The SCN is guided by light and dark cues that it receives throughout the day. For example, when your eyes perceive diminishing light in the evening, it cues the brain to begin to release melatonin (the sleep hormone) in preparation for the night.

When we move the clocks back, it will be darker than the previous night, but yet be an hour earlier. This may throw your child’s body into limbo for a few days due to the decrease in light, yet not feeling quite tired enough. This isn’t too worrisome for parents, however the tendency for a child to wake up an hour earlier the next morning, is.

#2. Rest Up

It’s a common misconception that exhausted children sleep well. In fact the exact opposite occurs; when they’re overtired, children will be more prone to waking in the night and starting the day extra early.

Seeing as the fall time change tends to result in early morning wake ups, to help minimize this effect, don’t add to the probability of a 4 am wake up call by having a sleep deprived child.

It is important that your child is going to bed on time for one to two weeks leading up to the change and if they are still needing to nap; be sure to not skip any during the lead up to the time change.

#3. Move Forward Before Falling Back

Do you have a great, independent sleeper already? If so, then you don’t have to do any preparation-just move to standard time on the Sunday.

However, if your child struggles to sleep well, and/or for those children that get overtired quickly, you may benefit from a more gentle approach.

Three to four days before we switch the clocks back, begin to move your child’s routine forward by 15 minutes each day. Then, when the clocks move back an hour, your child will already feel like they are on the new time.

If you are choosing this method, it is important to move their entire routine forward including meal, play, nap and bed times. Yes, it may feel a tad weird to be feeding or napping your child forty five minutes later before the time change, however, keep in mind that their body biologically responds to not only light cues, but to social cues too. If your little one always eats lunch before naptime, then we want to keep that powerful cue in place, just a little later in the day.

#4. Light Control

With the understanding that the amount of light that the brain receives is important to how it regulates other body systems, we gain a valuable tool to use in how we shape our child’s routine leading up to the time change. In this instance, since we want our child to stay up a bit later (and therefore sleep “in” to at least 6:00 a.m. the next day once on standard time), you will want to expose them to sunlight in the late afternoon the night before the time change.

Once dusk hits and prior to your child’s bedtime routine, keep the house lights on as bright as possible to signal to the brain that it isn’t time to sleep yet. This is in direct opposition to what I would normally suggest, however in this case, it is a helpful, short term trick.

Once your child is asleep however, we want them to remain that way for as long as possible. With that in mind, make sure their room is as dark as possible. If a nightlight is needed, turn it on only when necessary. Low wattage pink, orange and amber hues support sleep better than LED lights that are blue based which suppress the release of melatonin.

#5. Expectations

Our children need some time to adjust to having their routine shifted and like us, may feel a little out of sorts for a few days. Generally speaking though, within a week, if no other prior sleep problems existed, everyone should be back on track within a week of the time change occurring.

 

Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She helps tired parents worldwide get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices through private consultations and customized sleep plans and support.She is a member and Western Canadian Representative of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children, ages 3 and 5. Visit www.babysleep101.com for more information or tune into The Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page for a free live weekly child sleep Q&A from 8pm-9pm CST every Wednesday night.

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