ah, autumn. apple picking, pumpkin spice everything, cooler temperatures, and three words that have the power to strike fear and dread into the heart of parents: daylight savings time.
while we usually welcome an extra hour of sleep, having your kids wake up extra early in the morning is not so welcome. don’t fret though: this is doable, and you can – and will – get through it! Here are some tips to help smooth the transition and make it easier on parents and kids.
take it slow
kids are sensitive to the littlest things – as anyone who’s ever witnessed a toddler meltdown over the wrong color cup can attest! the time change of an hour can really mess up their internal clocks, so taking it slow is key. four or five days before daylight savings, start pushing bedtime out a little later. if they usually go to bed at 7:30pm, start with bedtime at 7:45pm, then the next day, 8pm, and so forth. if it’s feasible, wake them up (or get them out of the crib) a little later, too.
nap schedules might also get thrown off a little. if your child is waking up earlier in the morning, they might get very cranky and tired earlier in the day. if this is the case, change nap schedules like you did sleep schedules – little by little. find what works for you both!
beware of the dark side
our bodies have an internal clock, and when it gets dark out, melatonin, which helps us sleep, is increased. no one likes it when it starts getting dark earlier, but you don’t want your child to go to bed too early, either – because that means earlier wakeups! when we “fall back,” having some light exposure in the evenings can help prevent them from snoozing too early. that being said, turning off electronic devices about 30-60 minutes before bedtime and keeping bedroom lights dim before bed can help with a smooth transition to sleep.the national sleep foundation says electronic devices can actually interfere with sleep quality, and also stimulate the brain right before bed – doing the opposite of what parents want!
since mornings can bring early daylight, investing in some blackout shades can help ensure your kiddo doesn’t wake up super early, as well.
even if you follow the directions perfectly, you might still run into pushback and challenges – which is normal! kids need time to get used to things, and it’s normal to be cranky when adjusting to a new schedule. some days might run more smoothly than others, and that’s okay. experiment with different naptimes and schedules, and be extra patient while your kiddos adjust to the new time change.
spending some quiet time as a family in the evening before bedtime can help signal that it’s time to wind down, and provide some much-needed calming to a change in schedule. especially in the first week or so, when things are still new, all the comforting things you can do, are a big help.
while it’s important to go with the flow…..
routine is good
children find comfort in a routine. not only that, but routines help provide them with clues – that it’s bedtime, mealtime, time to wake up, and so forth. keeping your bedtime routine, even if it’s at a later time, sends the familiar signals to your child, and helps them adjust.
remember: this doesn’t have to be complicated or something to overthink! some darkness in the morning will help with later wakeups, and a bit more light exposure in the evenings (and a slightly later bedtime leading up to the time change) can help with the change in bedtime. while things might be a little rocky for a week or so, the good news is that children do adjust and will settle into their new sleep/wake routines…just in time for the next daylight savings time change!