Before you had kids, you were probably pretty excited about that extra hour of sleep when Daylight Savings time came to an end every fall. When the clock falls back, as adults, our bodies adapt pretty easily, but a child’s body needs a little nudge to get the memo. With the help of these tips, you can help your child transition smoothly through the time change.
☆ Children should have a consistent bedtime routine that signals their body when it is time to sleep. Such routines can include bath, brush teeth, read 1-3 books in bed with lights dimmed, goodnight song, conversations or prayers, good night hugs and kisses and lights out. If you child has a bedtime routine already, you are already off to a good start. If not, in the weeks leading up to daylight savings make sure that your child is set up with a consistent and soothing bedtime routine that cues the child’s body when it is time to sleep. These cues will be helpful when the time change comes around because although the bedtime may be different, the cues will remain the same.
☆ In the week prior (or couple days, depending on the age of the child) you will gradually push their bedtime later nightly. For small babies start with 10 minutes each day. For toddlers start with 15 minutes and for older kids, 30 minutes should work. For example if your child’s bedtime is bedtime is 7:00 pm and you are working in 15 minute increments, bedtime for night one will be 7:15 pm. By gradually adjusting their bedtime, you are will be slowly shifting their circadian rhythms and should be able to avoid the second wind children get when put to bed too late.
☆ Your child’s wake time should be adjusted as well. You will want leave your child in his bed for the same increments you used at bedtime. For example, if your child wakes at 7:00 am and you are working in 15 minute increments, you will leave your child in his bed until 7:15 am. Your child may not sleep until the new time right away, as but as long as you remain consistent, their body will adapt and their circadian rhythms.
☆ Follow the same procedure for naps as well. It may take younger babies a little longer to adapt, since they take more naps, but they will adjust.
☆ If your child has an alarm clock, make sure to adjust it each night as well. I recommend the Okay to Wake alarm clock for toddlers and young children as it lights up green when it is time for them to get up for the day. It also has a nap setting as well.
☆ Make sure to keep a consistent schedule to prevent your child from becoming overtired and developing a second wind. If children become overtired at the end of the day you will notice that they seem to get more alert and hyper in the evening. This is due to a rush of the hormone cortisol which helps them stay awake. This hormone counteracts melatonin production, making it much harder for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
☆ Our biological clocks are regulated by sunlight. Make sure that it is very dark in your child’s bedroom at night and open the blinds first thing when you get them up in the morning. Exposure to light first thing helps suppress melatonin production and makes it easier for them to wake. It is also helpful to let your child play outside before dinner to get extra sunlight exposure before it is time to wind down for the evening.
This fall the time change will occur at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 6th 2016, so you have plenty time to prepare your child.