Daylight savings starts each spring season and it seems to creep earlier and earlier each year! This year it will fall on Sunday, March 11th at 2:00 am. This time of year, we will “spring forward” the clocks. Most parents don’t mind it so much in the fall when gaining an extra hour, but it sends fear through people’s bones when they hear they are going to lose an hour of sleep! It can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because with the change comes an adjustment that does not happen immediately. This lag results because children tend to be more structured in their bedtime and wake time, so changing the clocks, by even one hour, has a greater affect on children than adults.
I’ve had a LOTS of parents asking for the best way to handle daylight savings time and children’s sleep. So without any further rambling… Here it is!
But don’t spring too quickly!
There are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go a little smoother. My first recommendation is to leave your clock alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast and make a nice cup of coffee, and then go around your house and change each of your clocks and take a peek at your devices that changed automatically. Psychologically, it will feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time.
How do I help my specific kiddo(s) with Daylight Savings?
My best advice for children to help them with the change is to split the difference with the old time and the new time. How does that work? If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7:00 pm, you would put him to bed at 7:30 pm on Sunday night, the first night of the time change. This will feel like 6:30 to them, but it is better than adjusting the full hour and having it feel like 6:00 pm! Do this 30 minute adjustment for three nights, then on the Wednesday night put him to bed at 7:00 pm, or his normal (before Daylight Savings) bedtime.
If you have a toddler (age one or older), you should put him for his first nap 30 minutes later than normal on Sunday. So if he usually naps at 9:30 am, you would put him down at 10:00 am. You would do the same with the afternoon nap (if he is still hanging on to one). For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00 pm, you would put him down at 7:30 pm. Do this for three nights after the time change, and then on Wednesday night, put him to bed at 7:00 pm or his normal, pre-Daylight Savings bedtime. Then, on Thursday, you will be safe to move nap time(s) to the original time.
If you have a baby with a predictable bedtime, meaning he is always going to bed around the same time each night, you will adjust the difference in 15 minute increments. For example, if bedtime is normally 7:00 pm, you will move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the normal time. So Sunday night you would put him down at 7:45 pm, Monday night at 7:30 pm, and so on. In four nights you should be back to 7:00 pm. This 15 minute gradual approach will not impact the awake times of your little one as much as adjusting the full hour would!
Newborns and young babes
If your little one’s bedtime is not predictable (mostly for babies under six months old), simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone. If your little one normally goes to be 1.5 hours after his last nap of the day, then you will follow that as normal. A this age adjustments happen quickly and parents are typically following time spent awake rather than a set bedtime, anyways!
Don’t let the bright light bite
Another tip that is helpful is to darken your child’s room. As we get closer and closer to summer, kiddos may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside. Darkening the room can be very helpful to avoid both of these scenarios. Even though there are extra hours of daylight, little ones still need the same amount of sleep before and after daylight savings goes into effect. *I know this meme has a typo (twice), but I just couldn’t resist!
What to expect
Even with this gradual change, it may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep, and this is totally normal. Since the time is different and their bodies think it is earlier than the clocks say, it is likely that they initially won’t be as tired. This is so shocking to parents because we are just talking about a 30 minute, or even 15 minute, difference if you follow the plan above. But, change is change! It usually takes about a week for the full adjustment to made, but in some cases it can take up to a month. Be patient and consistent, and get your mindset right… It will happen!
And since you made it this far (and are probably a little anxious about the change that’s coming)… Here’s my suggestion for how we deal with daylight savings next spring!