Spring Forward: Daylight Saving Sleep Tips

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  • March 02, 2016
Spring Forward- Daylight Savings Sleep Tips

Those early sleepy, dark nights of winter are already turning into the dusky purple of a fast-approaching Spring. This is the perfect time to get your “ducks” in a row to prepare for Daylight Saving Time. Not everyone in the world observes Daylight Saving Time, so these Daylight Saving tips may not be applicable to some.

Daylight Saving Time Starts next weekend. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13th, we will turn our clocks ahead one hour.

For those in Europe, you have a few extra weeks, as you don’t “spring forward” until Sunday, March 23rd. 

The time change can wreak havoc at bedtimes as children adjust to the new mood lighting caused by the loss of an hour (imagine being used to a 7pm bedtime and now it’s been moved to what your body feels is 6pm!). This change often will make your next few days feel a bit “off”, because our natural rhythms are being challenged. Don’t be surprised if you find that your days feel a bit disjointed until you adjust to the time change, I know I always have a few “off” days. To make the transition easier, I’ve detailed out a few simple things that you can do to help your baby or toddler make the change gently.

Guess what? March 10th (a few days before we turn our clocks back) is my birthday! How serendipitous that my birthday coincides with a time change, and a need for some Sleep Lady tips!

Daylight Saving Sleep Tips

1. Ensure that your child is getting adequate naps in these few days before the time change so that they aren’t overtired.

2. Be prepared for your baby’s bedtime to feel earlier, since it actually is earlier. Remember, we’re jumping ahead a full hour, so what used to be 6:00 p.m. is now 7:00 p.m. (but it will still feel like 6:00 p.m. to your baby).

3. Take your baby outside first thing in the morning, or if it’s too cold, open the windows and let in some natural light. This will help your baby’s internal clock adjust to the time change. Try to get at least thirty minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning for that initial week to help your body tune into the time change.

With those suggestions in mind, you’ll need to decide how to help your baby transition to Daylight Saving Time. I recommend that you choose between two transition methods.

Transition Method 1: Pretend that Nothing Has Changed.

That’s right. Just act like it’s a normal day. In fact, if you have an early riser, the time change may resolve the issue for you. This first method is probably the easiest for most families, as you will follow your daily routine according to the clock, but everything will be pushed ahead one hour.

If you choose this method, simply move your clock ahead an hour after your little one is in bed on Saturday, and proceed with your normal day Sunday. Remember that doing this will cause your child to lose an hour, which has the potential to create a struggle at bedtime, which will in fact be a full hour earlier than it was last night.

Because your baby or toddler is not aware that the time has changed, they will wake up at their normal time (hopefully), but instead of 6:00 a.m., it will be 7:00 a.m. (see what I mean about solving that pesky early rising issue?). Proceed with your normal day, and be sure that your meals and naps, and bedtime are at the appropriate time (you may have to watch the clock).

Remember that your baby will be going to bed at their “regular time”. For example, if your baby is used to a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, put them to bed at the new 7:00 p.m. (which was previously 6:00 p.m.). It is very possible that meals and naps will fall into place naturally with this method, but be prepared that your child may not actually be tired at bedtime yet. Remember, they don’t understand why they’ve lost an hour, and it’s suddenly still light out at bedtime, so you may have to be a bit flexible, or utilize The Shuffle to help your baby fall asleep.

The good news about this transition method? This method of adjustment seldom takes more than a week!

Transition Method 2: Stick to Your Regularly Scheduled Program…Sort Of.

If you think the one-hour adjustment is too much for your child (maybe they have an earlier bedtime, or they haven’t been napping well), you can split the difference and put her to bed at the NEW 7:30 p.m. for a few days, then shift back to 7:00 p.m.

Here’s how it works: if you’re child’s bedtime is 7:00 p.m. now, and it feels like a huge leap to get to her “new” bedtime, which will feel like 6:00 p.m. to your child, consider making bedtime 7:30 p.m. (which was previously 6:30 p.m.) to bridge the gap, and help to minimize a struggle with bedtime.

This will help to ease your child into his new schedule and minimize the potential of your baby fighting bedtime. If you go this route, try to be as consistent as possible with your baby’s food and sleep schedule, meaning that you will need to shift their naps and meals later by half an hour as well (so if your baby normally naps at 1:00 p.m., then put them down for their nap at 1:30 p.m. after the time change while baby is transitioning).

Keep in mind that the goal is to be back to your baby’s normal bedtime (and routine) in just a few days (some children may take a bit longer, so don’t fret if your child takes a week or so).

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your baby’s internal clock is used to Standard Time. You may need to revert to The Shuffle for a few days to help ease her into the time change using these methods. “Springing forward” also means that nights are shorter, which may be an issue for some children who are used to dark winter nights. If this becomes a problem, consider investing in some room darkening shades to help your little one go to sleep easily. Remember, every baby is different, and your little one will adjust, but don’t fret if it’s not overnight (some toddlers can take a few weeks to adjust!). Prepare for the transition to take a few days, and watch for those sleep cues that will tell you she’s tired and ready to sleep!

Ease Your Baby Into Daylight Saving Time

1. Decide which Daylight Saving sleep transition method you want to use to help your child adjust.

2. Take your baby’s internal clock into account and watch for sleepy cues.

3. Check to see if light is an issue, and consider purchasing room-darkening shades.

4. Most importantly, be flexible. A time change always makes the days feel a little strange (even to an adult who can understand what’s going on), and your baby can’t quite grasp what’s going on.

5. If needed, use The Shuffle to help encourage sleep and help your baby get the rest he needs.

After all that, Daylight Saving time may be something you can actually look forward to as you spend some beautiful twilight time alone or with someone special while the children are off in dreamland.

What worked best for your family?

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Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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