Daylight Savings Time ends on Nov. 1 this year, bringing a glorious hour of extra sleep.
Unless you’re a parent.
Setting the clocks back can disrupt a child’s circadian rhythm, resulting in earlier mornings, crankiness, and exhaustion by dinner time. So how should parents of babies and small children navigate the time change? Here is what I recommend:
Prepare for Success
First, leave the clocks alone until everyone is up for the day. It can be very frustrating to see your children up an hour earlier than normal. Just get up at your usual time, have a cup of coffee and some breakfast, then go around changing the clocks.
“Split the Difference” for naps and bedtime
On Nov. 1-3, put your children to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. This will feel like 30 minutes later, so be prepared for some extra tiredness. It may be a push, but it won’t be so dramatic as to damage their schedule. Examples: If first nap is at 10 a.m., put them down at 9:30 for three days. If bedtime is 7 p.m., it will now be 7:30 p.m. for three days. On the fourth day move back to normal naps and bedtime.
Starting Nov. 2, gradually delay morning wake-ups
For older toddlers and small children try putting a digital clock in their room with the minutes covered. Teach them that they need to stay in bed until they see the “7” and set the time on the clock later each day. Another option many of my clients have success with is using a “sleep clock” such as the Gro Clock. These light up at your pre-set morning time.
For babies, you will need to take a more gradual approach with mornings. On the first morning after the time change (Nov. 2) you don’t want to rush in and confirm that 5:30 is now a great time to get up. Allow them to babble/fuss for 10 minutes, then get them up and start their day with bright light, cheerfulness and activity. On the second morning, wait up to 20 minutes past their old wake-up time. On the third morning, wait 30 minutes, and so on for a week. By the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted and they should be waking up at their usual time again.
Our bodies require roughly one week to adjust to any change in sleep habits, so be patient and give your children time to make the shift. Within a few days their sleep will be on track, your mornings will be back to normal, and you’ll all be sleeping better.
-Jillian Christjansen, RN, BSN is an infant and child sleep consultant.