This coming Sunday is Daylight Savings Time, and as the adage follows, we “spring” forward and move our clocks an hour ahead. The changes in time can create anxiety for parents of young children who are greatly dependent on a routine-based schedule that follows consistent sleep times everyday. It’s proven that children thrive better when bedtimes and naptimes are structured and consistent everyday, so it is no wonder that a change in time can throw a wrench in parents’ best-laid plans and increase the worry that the hard-earned sleep schedule could be derailed.
However, there are a few ways to help make the schedule transition easier and experience little to no setback in your child’s sleeping routine and habits.
Do It Now. Don't Wait.
If you are the pro-active type, start moving your child’s schedule up by 10 minutes each day starting today, and by Monday, your child will be fairly well-adjusted to the new time once the clocks have been changed. This scenario is ideal for young babies, who are especially sensitive to changes in the amount of time that they are awake prior to naps and bedtime. Moving their schedule around drastically can quickly lead to an overtired baby and some rough nights until you get back on track.
This method is also very effective for toddlers, school-aged, and adults, as they would hardly notice the schedule change by the time Monday rolls around and a new school and work week begins.
This method is generally the easiest to do and carries the smallest impact on the body and mind as the adjustment to the time change occurs.
Take It As It Comes.
Another option to address the time change is to wait until Sunday to do anything. That means not touching the clocks in the house until after everyone has woken up and eaten breakfast. This can help everyone feel more at ease with the time change, especially if you had a good night’s rest and food in your belly. Then you would split the difference with the new and old time for a few days until your body has adapted to the new time change.
This means that you would move naps and bedtime forward 30 minutes for three days. If your child typically naps at 12:30 and goes to bed at 7:30, then for the first 3 days after the time change, you would put them down at 1:00 and 8:00 respectively. On the 4th day, you put them down at their normal nap and bedtime: 12:30 and 7:30. This allows their bodies to have several days to adjust to the new time without it being a shock to the system or throw them off schedule.
However, if you have an infant under one year of age and their sleep schedule is very predictable, do this more gradually and in smaller time increments of 15 minutes. For example, if bedtime is 7:00 PM, move bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few nights until you reach the normal time. So the first night, you’d put the baby down at 7:45 PM, then you’d put them down at 7:30, then 7:15, and finally at 7:00 PM. You would do the same for naps as well. It is very normal if your child doesn’t fall asleep right away or takes a little longer to fall asleep with the time change. Their body clock will re-calibrate itself fairly quickly and putting them to bed at the suggested times will still allow their body to get the rest it needs and adjust to the schedule in a more gentle manner.
Other special sleep tips to note for Daylight Savings Time:
Whichever method you decide to tackle to address Daylight Savings Time with your littles, just keep in mind that with any changes in your child’s routine, consistency and patience are the biggest keys to keep in mind. Your child may adapt very quickly to the time change and other may take weeks to adapt. As long as you are consistent, your child will adapt to the new time change eventually.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.