Daylight savings time ends on Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 a.m. Most of us will be rolling our clocks back an hour, which can cause sleep problems, and in many cases, early rising. This is common due to the simple fact that once we fall back, 6:30 a.m. suddenly becomes 5:30 a.m. To help your family make a smooth transition, here are 10 daylight saving tips that you can implement to make a smooth transition as we fall back one hour.
Note: older toddlers and preschoolers may be able to make that hour jump right away away if they are well napped and already well rested. Please know that the following advice pertains to babies 5 months and older. Babies younger than 4 months do not have fully developed sleep patterns.
Many parents I have spoken to dread this time change as their children will be waking up even earlier, and previous early rising issues can become big problems. To help ensure that your baby’s sleep doesn’t go completely off the rails, make a slow transition.
Make a point to slowly adjust your child’s bedtime and naptimes an hour later, just 15-30 minutes a day for a few days before daylight savings ends. This way, your child will already be adjusted to the time change. While you’re adjusting naps and bedtime, make sure that you also adjust mealtimes in 10-15 minute increments to help ease the transition.
For children under 4 years old, its essential that we make naps a priority this time change. Quality nighttime sleep is dependent upon good daytime sleep. Make sure that your children are well-napped during the day. That way when the time change takes effect, a bedtime that feels later isn’t as much of an issue.
Between naps, make sure that your children are exposed to plenty of natural light. Open the curtains, take an afternoon walk, or just play outside. Help your children adjust by following a soothing sleep routine 30-45 minutes before naps and an hour before bedtime. Close the curtains, dim the lights and follow your routine. If you find that your baby is still having trouble with sleep even after a good day of naps, you may need to temporarily add a third late-afternoon nap, of no more than an hour to help make sure that your baby isn’t overtired at bedtime.
Use Blackout Curtains
To help your baby sleep more soundly, consider installing blackout curtains and using a sound machine. Although the days are getting shorter, there may still be some natural light present — especially in the morning — as well as noise when you put your baby to bed. To mitigate these, install blackout curtains and use a sound machine to help buffer outside light and sound. Black out shades are great for children with early rising issues, which is often a problem after the fall time change, especially if your child was already getting up before 6:00 a.m.
Rely on Dramatic Wake Ups
While preparing for the time change (and after), use dramatic wake up to help your children adjust to the change. It’s entirely possible that after the change your baby may be waking earlier than normal. If this is the case, keep your baby’s room dark and quiet, and use a gentle method to encourage your child to go back to sleep. You may need to check on your baby and reassure that all is well, reminding them that it’s not quite time to wake up.
At this point, you can either sit on a chair near the door or leave the room and do timed checks. If your child is over 2.5 years old, I recommend that you purchase a toddler clock or wake up alarm that signals them when its time to get up and start the day. This will help your toddler stay in bed — and hopefully fall back asleep — until at least 6:00 a.m. Then open the blinds and make a big deal of “good morning”. Make sure that you expose your baby to lots of natural light first thing in the morning to help reset his circadian rhythm to coincide with the new time.
Be Mindful of Wakefulness Windows
Watch your baby’s wakefulness windows. Children have a limited window of wakefulness — the time that they can be awake and alert without meltdowns — between naps and bedtimes. Make sure that you watch your baby for sleepy cues carefully. Change your baby’s diaper right before your she goes into the crib for naps or bedtime. Keeping your child dry in diapers like Pampers, that offer up to 12 hours of overnight protection and are three times drier than ordinary diapers,will help to prevent unnecessary night awakenings, and help to ensure a happy, well-rested baby the next day.
It’s getting colder, so bundle everyone up and take a morning walk. Just 20 or 30 minutes will make sure that you and your baby get some sunshine, which will help your circadian rhythm adjust to the time change. If you can’t manage a morning walk, make sure that the blinds are open as you start your day. Keep them open up to 45 minutes before nap and bedtimes to help your child adjust to the time change.
Stick to Your Flexible Schedule
If you always have breakfast at 8:00 a.m., then keep your schedule, but make sure that you are following it according to the time change. You can start slowly adjusting your daily schedule forward in 10-15 minute increments 4-5 days before the time change. So if you normally have lunch at 11:30, on Wednesday, have lunch at 11:40, on Thursday, move lunch to 11:50 and so on. The same goes for naps and bedtimes. After the time change, your schedule will once again match the clock from before the transition.
The end of daylight savings is a good time to make sure that your child’s bedtime is age-appropriate. Infants and babies do best with a bedtime between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Later bedtimes have shown to have a negative effect on children’s attitudes and their ability to focus, and can result in instances of early rising. If you find that your baby has been going to bed too early or too late, take advantage of the time change to gradually shift bedtime — back or forward in 15-30 minute increments over the next week.
Soothing Bedtime Routine
To ensure that your children know when it’s time to sleep, rely on your established soothing bedtime routine. Routines are comforting for children, so make sure that you keep your baby’s routine the same, although you will be starting it a bit later due to the time change.
Change your baby’s diaper right before you tuck them into the crib to help prevent wet diapers at night and unnecessary nighttime awakenings. If your baby often has diapers that leak during the night and require a change, use overnight diapers that can keep your baby dry for up to 12 hours to help limit your baby’s sleep disturbances.
Beware of Early Rising
If you do have a child who is getting up before 6:00 a.m., make sure that you respond to early risings quickly and consistently. Although you may sail through the time change, some babies will have trouble with early rising for a few days.
Respond to these awakenings quickly, gently resettling your baby so that sleep comes easier. Be careful to make sure that your baby is actually awake before you go help. You don’t want to create a new sleep crutch that will cause your baby to rely on you to get back to sleep. Remember to use dramatic wake up once 6:30 a.m. rolls around!
If you do nothing else to prepare for the time change, make sure that your children have had adequate naps in the days leading up to the time change. Help prevent unnecessary night awakenings by putting your baby into a clean, dry diaper right before you settle them into the crib for the night.
This article was originally written for pampers.com.
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