Any parent can tell you that ‘falling back’ doesn’t necessarily mean an extra hour of sleep. This article by Julie Miller, Certified Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Mountain Dreams Family Sleep Consulting in Squamish, has sleep tips to help everyone adjust more smoothly.
As a parent, long gone are the days of looking forward to the end of daylight saving time, which is happening November 3, 2013, when we turn our clocks back an hour. We often look forward to ‘springing forward’ when it tays lighter for longer and gives us more time outside. In the fall it seems less useful as it just means it gets darker earlier. The other main downside is that it can interfere with our kids’ sleep schedules. For most parents returning to standard time in the fall does not mean an extra hour of sleep, it means children waking up an hour early. If we don’t plan ahead and adjust our kids then it may mean a lot of early mornings and fussy overtired kids until they adjust. I’d like to offer five tips for parents to easily adjust to turning our clocks back an hour next month.
Although adults can usually quickly adapt to a new wake up and sleep time, it can be more difficult for kids. Younger children’s sleep schedules are more tied to their internal clocks and not what time a watch says it is. Here are a few sleep tips to make ‘falling back’ a bit easier.
Sleep Tips to Help Kids Adjust to the Time Change
1. Start as Early as Possible
The ideal would be to start adjusting a week out. Failing that, just do it as soon as you can. Consider shifting your child’s entire schedule (including wake times, eating times, naps and bedtimes) 15 minutes later. Repeat this 15 minute shift every other day (or every day, if you start late). By the time Sunday rolls around, their little bodies will be fully prepared for the new time adjustment.
2. Follow a Routine
Children cannot read a clock, so your routine is how they know what time it is. Every part of your routine gives children a chance to know what time it is. Mealtimes, snack times, play, naps, bedtime and wake up help children to know what to expect and what is coming next in their day. Follow your daily routine on the new adjusted schedule, not just sleep times. All of your schedule will need to change so they understand the cues to the routine shift.
3. Adjust Sleep Times
You may find your child’s usual 6:30am wake up is now 5:30am on the morning after the time change and for a few days following. You will want to compensate with an earlier nap and bedtime schedule and continue to stick to your consistent routine until your child’s internal clock adjusts. Often when young children are overtired they wake up even earlier, so make sure they are getting their naps and going to bed on time at the new time. The arrival of fall means shorter days with fewer hours of sunlight when you wake up your child in the morning the more exposure they have to bright light will allow them to naturally regulate their circadian rhythms and help them adjust to the new schedule.
4. All Children are Unique
Remember that every child is different and they will adjust differently to changes in their sleep schedule. It takes several days to adjust to the new times, so be prepared for your baby to wake up earlier than usual on occasions, to be crankier than usual during the afternoon, and to be sleepier during the first days of the transition.
5. Check Safety Measures
Keep in mind that the start and end of daylight saving time are good reminders to get caught up on safety measures around the house, such as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and cleaning out your medicine cabinets.
Julie Miller, founder of Mountain Dreams Family Sleep Consulting lives in Squamish, BC Canada with her husband and two girls, Sola and Yale. Julie is a Family Sleep Consultant trained by the Family Sleep Institute. This is complemented by her background of a Masters degree in Social Work and extensive experience working with children and families. She is confident addressing a complex set of issues and is comfortable working with individuals from all backgrounds. For more information visit www.mountaindreams.ca and follow her at facebook.com/