Just when you think you’ve got the whole sleep thing down pat —your kids are going to bed at a decent hour, and your baby is almost sleeping through the night— along comes Daylight Saving Time to eff it all up. But there’s a real reason why parents fear DST, especially when you’re springing forward (and losing an hour of precious sleep). Here’s how to prepare kids for Daylight Saving Time, according to experts.
It’s not so much the actual day that DST begins that’s a problem—it’s the next night (and week) when your child’s sleep schedule is affected that can make him super cranky—and reduce a parent to tears. “The good news is that this time change is the much less evil one of the two because the clocks are being pushed later, not earlier!” says Eva Klein, JD, a certified infant and child sleep consultant. But there’s hope on the horizon. Says Klein: “It doesn’t take most children longer than a week to adjust to the time change.”
If you’re looking for ways to prepare kids for Daylight Saving Time, look to these tips to lull your child (and your entire family, really) to sleep.
Shift The Sleep
If you’re worried that your kid might struggle with DST, you should start getting him ready for the sleep shift. “Allow your child’s internal clock to adjust to the time change over a period of several days instead of overnight,” advises Dr. Whitney Roban, PhD, a clinical psychologist and corporate sleep specialist. “To do this, you will need to move the bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments for the four days preceding daylight savings.” So if your child has a 7:00 bedtime, you’ll move bedtime to 6:45 on Thursday, 6:30 on Friday, and 6:15 on Saturday. “On Sunday evening your child’s internal clock will be set to a 6:00 bedtime, which on this day, will now become the new 7:00pm,” says Dr. Roban. “Your child’s internal clock has now become set to coincide with the time change on Sunday.”
Don’t Discuss It Too Much
If you show your stress or concern about your child’s sleep schedule, you might inadvertently pass along your nervousness to your kiddos. “Do not discuss the time change nor the change in bedtime with your child,” says Dr. Roban. “Just stay firm and consistent, knowing that you are doing what is necessary and best for your child in relation to sleep.”
Keep It Consistent
Naturally, your child might initially appear wide awake when she should be winding down to the time shift. But don’t think that you should keep her up, anyway. “It may take your child a few extra minutes to fall asleep as you adjust the bedtime,” says Dr. Roban. “Just allow your child’s mind and body to relax and fall asleep peacefully.” After all, trying to get your too-tired child to bed is a whole lot harder than getting your kid to sleep when she’s starting to feel sleepy.
A sudden switch in your child’s sleep schedule is enough to send any parent into panic mode. So be kind to yourself as your kids (and you) adjust to your new normal. “As long as you allow enough time preceding daylight savings for your child’s internal clock to adjust to the new time, you shouldn’t notice any change in your child’s sleep patterns,” says Dr. Roban.
Cue The Clocks
If your child can tell the time, he might resist the earlier bedtime. That’s why you might need to switch the clocks ahead of time so that they’re in sync with the new sleep schedule. “It is too difficult a concept to explain to a child and you do not want to waste precious sleep time arguing over bed time,” says Dr. Roban.
There are some parents who like to be totally prepared—and others who just want to wing it, especially when it comes to DST. “Allow the time change to automatically shift your child’s schedule later by an hour,” says Klein. Sure, your child might be tired, but ultimately he will eventually adjust to the time change.
Daylight Savings Time doesn’t have to make you sleep-obsessed. Take the necessary steps to help your child adjust, and before long, you’ll all be having the sweetest of dreams.