Daylight Savings Time is a bi-annual event that sparks dread, confusion, and even fear in parents' minds. The idea that their hard work getting their child to go to sleep at the same time every night and take good naps, could all go down the drain by simply changing the clocks by an hour. It sounds so unbelievable, that an hour can cause so much stress. But every parent knows that even a measly hour can derail their child's good sleep habits because with this particular time change, happening March 11th, 2018, the sunlight changes as well, with having longer daylight hours and "shorter" nights.
While many parents rejoice in the daylight savings event in the fall, as they're able to use the darkness outside to their advantage when it comes to setting their child's earlier bedtimes, their luck can run out come the spring, when it's bright and cheery outside when the 7:00 PM bedtime rolls around and their child notices the brightness of their bedroom when it's time for bed. This can lead to new battles at bedtime, when their child insists that it is not time for bed because the sun is still awake.
The Key to Maintaining Darkness
My top tip for families dreading the pushback for bedtime due to the longer daylight hours is to make your child's room DARK. Tackle your child's bedroom window and do whatever you can to block the daylight at bedtime. You can use blackout curtains, hang extra sheets on the curtain rods, or use my personal favorite: window coverings. (On a personal note, Blackout E-Z Window Covers is my go-to product for covering up your window panes without having to use nails, sticky tape, or other damaging items. These covers can be made to custom fit your window panes and will block out ALL light trying to peek through. Such a great investment to maintain the darkness in your child's room!)
At any rate, it is so important to make your child's room as dark as possible for this particular change in time. Not only does it help you in your quest to maintain the bedroom that you've been enjoying the last six months, but it also helps keep you child's body clock on track and not experience confusion from the excess light from outside.
But let's move on to the next burning question: How do I handle the time change without screwing up my child's bedtime and naps?
Handling the Time Change
There are two ways you can handle the time change so that it doesn't wreak havoc on your child's schedule and your sanity.
A few days before the time change, ideally four days, you would start moving naptime and bedtime 15 minutes back each day. If naptime was 12:30 PM and bedtime is at 7:00 PM, then you would move both back 15 minutes: 12:15 PM and 6:45 PM. Then you would move it again the next day, and repeat until by Sunday, you are back to the "old" times of 12:30 and 7:00 PM after the clocks have been changed. This will feel a little early to your child and there may be some mucking around and they end up falling asleep at the normal time anyway, but by putting them down earlier helps their body clock start making the adjustment for the time change before it comes.
Split the Difference:
On Sunday, after you've changed the clocks, you would split the difference for three days. So if bedtime was at 8:00 PM, then for three nights: Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, bedtime would be at 7:30 PM. Then on Wednesday, you move bedtime back to the old time of 8:00 PM. This strategy is more effective for adults and older children who may no longer be napping or have one nap that isn't much longer than 60-90 minutes.
For either strategy, it is so important to get your child out into the sunlight while they are awake. This will help their internal body clock re-calibrate itself without much stress and will help to keep the transition smoother.
If you need help getting your child on a more predictable schedule for bedtime and naps, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your free 15-minute assessment of your child's sleep today!
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.