4 Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Well Through the Time Change
Guest post by Erin Anderson, owner of The Sleeptime Teacher
If you’re like me and you’ve shoveled more than your share of snow during these frigid winter months, you’re probably looking forward to seeing the first signs of spring soon! While it may not exactly be flip-flop weather just yet, the beginning of Daylight Savings Time is right around the corner, and a nice reminder that longer, lighter, and (thankfully) warmer days are soon to come. For most of us here in the United States, we’ll be setting our clocks forward one hour on Sunday, March 9th, 2014 at 2:00 a.m. For those of you in Europe who observe the time change, you’ll be moving your clocks ahead on Sunday, March 30th, 2014.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking… sure, warmer weather, longer days, and retiring that snow shovel to the garage sounds great…. But the idea of losing an hour of sleep, especially if you are an already sleep-deprived parent, is just plain exhausting! Whether your child is a good sleeper or not, you’ll want to have a plan in place so that this time change will be as smooth as possible.
Do nothing for the time change!
I’m talking about a “cold turkey” approach, parents! After your child goes to bed on Saturday, simply change the clock an hour ahead and follow your child’s regular schedule according to the “new time” on Sunday (which will be an hour ahead).
This option can be particularly helpful for parents whose child has been waking too early. Suddenly, the baby who’s been waking up at 5:30 is now waking at 6:30! Bam! Suddenly, your early rising issue is solved!
Keep in mind that you may face a bit of a struggle at bedtime if you choose this option. If your child normally goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., you will be putting your baby down at the “new” 7:00 (which is really 6:00 p.m.), and he may not actually be tired and ready for sleep at that time. Hang in there! Stick to your child’s normal bedtime routine and make sure that his bedroom is “sleep-friendly,” complete with room darkening shades and/or some sort of white noise machine. You should notice that your child’s internal clock will adjust to this new time within a week.
Please note that this “cold turkey” method is best suited for children who tend to adjust to change or transition easily.
Gradually adjust your child’s sleep schedule.
If the “cold turkey” method seems too drastic, or your child does not handle change well, you may want to consider a more gradual approach. Starting just a few days before the time change, move your child’s bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each day so that by the time you get to Saturday night, he is going to sleep a full hour earlier.
For example, if your child normally goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., put him down at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday night, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 6:15 p.m. on Friday and 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. Remember, these times assume “clock” time, not your child’s internal clock.
Remember to adjust nap times and meal times in gradual 15-minute increments as well.
Regardless of which option you choose, use these simple tips to make this time change as painless as possible:
• Be mindful of your child’s circadian rhythm
While it’s important to keep an eye on the time, pay attention to your child’s sleepy cues. It may take up to a week for your child to fully adjust to the time change. Try to be as consistent as possible with your child’s normal routine while understanding that this is the reason you have a flexible routine. You may need to be a bit more flexible than normal during this transition.
• Expose him to bright sunlight in the mornings.
Our internal rhythms are largely influenced by sunlight, so exposing your child to natural light in the morning will help him to reset his own internal clock. If it’s too cold to venture outside, even opening the blinds can help.
• Install room darkening or blackout shades in your child’s room, and use them during sleep.
With spring and summer come longer days and shorter nights which sometimes means that you’ll have sunlight streaming through your child’s windows far too early in the morning, as well as in the evening when it’s time for bed. This can make it harder for your little one to go to sleep and stay asleep. This advice works well for naptimes, too!
• Keep evening activities calm before bedtime.
Make sure your child has enough time to wind down from the day, which will allow his internal clock a chance to prepare for sleep. Establishing a consistent, predictable bedtime routine that includes calm, soothing activities is extremely beneficial. Avoid bright lights and limit exposure to electronics, such as TV, computers, tablets, etc. well before bedtime.
Wishing you and your family a happy and rest-filled spring!
Erin Anderson, The Sleepytime Teacher, is a certified Gentle Sleep Coach, trained by Kim West. Erin helps families create and implement customized gentle sleep solutions for children, ages 6 months-6 years. To contact her, please visit www.sleepytimeteacher.com or find her on Facebook.