Get ready to “spring forward” this weekend as Daylight Savings begins on Sunday. A time change is always an adjustment and even more so when you have young children. Changing every clock in your house may only take a few minutes, but it takes longer than that for our little ones to adjust to a new bedtime and wake-up time.
If it were up to me, the clocks would never change. I think it really does affect not only children’s sleep patterns but adults, too. In fact, statistically, there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after daylight savings time kicks in. It really does have an effect on all of us, and it can increase our sleep debt – especially in children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That is usually why people notice it the most in young children
So, what is the best way to handle “spring forward”? I suggest you “split the difference”.
Here are a couple of tips to make “spring forward” a little easier.
- Wait until Sunday morning to change the clocks. Life is going to seem a lot less stressful if you don’t start your day by looking at the clock that reads differently when your little one awakes. My recommendation is to enjoy a cup of coffee and some breakfast before you start going through the house to change all of the clocks. It’s a little mind game, but it’s helpful.
- How do you split the difference?
School Age Children– If your child does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., you would put him to bed at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, the first night of the time change. This will be a bit earlier than they are used to, but not enough to disrupt their bedtime routine. They may not be as tired and take a little longer to fall asleep. Do this for 3 nights, putting him to bed 30 minutes later than normal, then on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time, 7:00 p.m. or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.
Toddlers– If your little one is a toddler, on Sunday the first day of the time change, you would put him down for his first nap 30 minutes later than normal. So, if he naps usually at 9:30 a.m. put him down at 10:00 a.m. You would do the same with the afternoon nap if he takes one. For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., you would put him down at 7:30 p.m. Do this for 3 nights after the time change and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00 p.m. and on 5th day move naptimes back to normal time.
Infants-If you have a baby and his bedtime has become predictable (usually over 6 months old) meaning he is always going to bed around the same time each night. For example, if bedtime is normally 7:00pm move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the normal time. So the first night you would put him down at 7:45pm, the second night 7:30pm, and so on. In four nights you should be back to 7:00pm. If their bedtime is not predictable (0-6 months old) simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone.
Remember, it takes children longer to adjust to a time change than adults. Most will adjust in about a week, but some might take as long as a month. Be patient and consistent and they will adjust with your help.