That means we’ll all be setting our clocks ahead one hour. For parents of early risers, this is great news – 5:00 am will become 6:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m. will become 7:00 a.m… a too early wake up time can become an acceptable wake up time overnight!
But not all parents look forward to “springing forward.” Some worry that losing that extra hour of sleep will throw off their child’s schedule or make existing sleep challenges even worse. If you share those concerns, read on. The following tips will help your entire family adjust to the change without a hitch.
- On Thursday, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual.
- On Friday go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual.
- On Saturday, go to bed 45 minutes earlier than usual and set the clocks one hour ahead before you go to bed.
- Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m. for the 4 days leading up to the change.
For your child, choose one of the following methods:
1. Do nothing. On Sunday morning, switch to the new time right away. Switch all meals, activities, and naps to the new time as well. If your child is fairly easy going and adaptable, the adjustment should be painless. It may take your child a bit longer to fall asleep on Sunday night (the clock will say 7:00 p.m. but their body will feel like it’s only 6:00 p.m.) so consider limiting their nap on Sunday afternoon to help them be ready to sleep at the new time. This method works well for children that tend to be adaptable, and not overly sensitive to changes in schedule and routine.
2. Work up to it. If your child is sensitive to changes in schedule you can work toward the time change in increments. Use the same method that I outlined above for adults – start on Thursday and move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day. Shift all meals, activities and naps as well. If your child is especially sensitive you can take an even more gradual approach by starting at the beginning of the week and moving bedtime back by 5 or 10 minutes every day. Use light and dark to help re-set your child’s internal clock – dim the lights for the hour leading up to bedtime, and expose your child to natural light in the morning when they rise.
3. Fix it afterward. Wait until Sunday and adjust your child’s schedule in 15 minute increments over the next three or four days following the change.
Don’t be tempted to let your child “sleep in” on Sunday to make up for the lost hour, even though they may seem a bit sleepy in the morning – it will only make it more difficult for them to move to the new time.
As the days get longer you’ll be putting your child to bed while it’s still light outside. If you haven’t already, invest in room darkening shades for your child’s bedroom. Even a small amount of light can interfere with our body’s production of melatonin – the hormone that helps us feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Make sure that your child naps well this week – well rested children are more flexible, and adapt more easily to change.
Don’t worry too much! Whether you work toward the change gradually or do nothing at all, most children will naturally adjust to the new time within a week.