Remember the good 'ol days when Daylight Savings Time meant an extra hour of sleep? HA! Those years are far behind us. Around this time of year I receive countless e-mails from families worried about the upcoming shift. Should you be concerned? Not if you have a solid plan of action. Read on for some strategies to cope.
Plan of Action #1 - The Slow Schedule Shift
For those families with children who are already perpetual early risers, this strategy might be right for you. This strategy is also best for those with younger babies (8 months and under). Putting a little work in ahead of time can help to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible. How do we do this?
Shift your baby's schedule 15 minutes later starting on the Wednesday before the time change hits. I don't recommend pushing any more than 15 minutes as you don't want baby to end up overtired (and we know that pushing bedtime too late usually results in an early wake-up anyway! Not cool baby!) So, for instance, if your baby is 6 months old and you usually put him to bed 2 hours after his 3rd nap ends, you would push him to 2.25 hours in hopes that he'll also sleep in 15 minutes later the next day. The next day, push each nap time 15 minutes later as well. Continue this schedule of 15 minute stretches until the time change hits, when (hopefully) your schedule will have shifted later by 1 hour.
Plan of Action #2 - The Big Shift
This strategy might work well for families with children that aren't waking up too early (later than 6:00am) or those who have older babies (over 8 months of age). Keep their schedule the same up to the time change but then on the day after the shift, push the schedule (as much as she can handle) back to her 'normal' routine. Your bedtime may be on the earlier end for a day or so but with time (and lots of natural light! As that is what sets our internal clocks!) she should settle back into her old schedule.
Plan of Action #3 - Plan? What Plan?
This "strategy" works best for those kids who are already waking up and going to bed at a reasonable time (7:00am or later with a 7:00pm or later bedtime) or who are not prone to overtiredness/easy type children. Your child wakes at 6:00am on the morning after Daylight Savings (which is still actually 7:00am) and you'll stick to your same schedule and put him to bed at 7:00pm that night (which to him will be 8:00pm).
Or, maybe your baby is an early bird but you don't really mind a few earlier mornings. You'll be waking up at 4:00am for a few days (which again, is still 5:00am) but he will adjust in a few days and start waking up at his old 5:00am soon enough.
What Else Can We Do to Help with Daylight Savings?
- Shift all your routines later, not just sleep times.
- Making your baby's sleep space as dark as possible is essential for helping to reset their internal clock. Check out this great company here for custom window covers to completely darken your baby's sleep space.
- Continue to always leave your baby in their bed until 6:00am (new time). If this transition is too big to achieve on the first day, do it gradually over a few days.
- Natural sunlight is key for resetting our internal clocks, so take baby for a 20-30 minute early morning walk for a few days after we fall back, as the sunshine will help baby process that it's morning and will help to resolve any confusion with her circadian rhythms.
- What not to do? Don't try to make the jump to their 'normal' bedtime too quickly. This will only lead to overtiredness and likely an early wake-up the next day. Embrace an earlier bedtime for a few days. The good news about Daylight Savings is that the effects only last a few days (keep this in mind when you're all excited for a later wake-up in the Spring. Sorry to burst your bubble!)
Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!