Back before you were a parent, the end of daylight savings was a welcome relief to pitch black mornings. An extra hour of sleep is more valuable than gold, especially post parenthood. Enter Sweet Bundle of Joy who doesn’t share your affinity of snoozing and also has a set, circadian rhythm that doesn’t magically readjust over a weekend. Your baby doesn’t care that Uncle Sam dictates a useless time adjustment every six months.
As if parenting weren’t already the hardest thing anyone has ever done in the history of doing things, we must deal with the time change and our children. Here’s what will happen, if you’re new to fall-back with children: they wake up after the same number of hours of sleep. So if Junior typically wakes up at 7:00 am, you’ll now have a 6:00 am early riser after the change. Start gearing up for that adjustment now with these six easy tips.
1. Extend bedtime a little later each night.
Folks who prefer to rip the band-aid off may just push through a few tough days and move bedtime forward a full hour immediately. Older children can handle a change like that a bit easier. But if you you have a baby or toddler, I recommend pushing bedtime back by ten or fifteen minutes for a few nights. This will take some discipline, but establishing a solid bedtime routine and sticking to it is not only important for your sanity, but for your child’s health, too.
2. Expect grumpy toddlers for up to three weeks.
Again, the younger the child the longer it will take to adjust. According to multiple studies, poor or inadequate sleep causes irritability, stress and anxiety. No big surprise there. Pile on top of that an inability to verbally communicate and you’ve got a cranky young child on your hands for days, if not weeks. Just brace yourselves and prepare to expect some rocky terrain.
3. Reduce other variables to focus on sleep.
Kids do really well when they have time to hone in on one skill or hurdle at a time. If you’re potty training, pull back on the reins for a while to let the lack of sleep pass. Trying to concentrate while sleep deprived makes you ineffective and irritable — and the same goes for Junior.
4. Get room darkening shades or curtains.
Kids sense morning like sharks smell blood; the tiniest crack of daylight can wake even the hardest young sleeper. Keeping it dark in your child’s room will encourage more sleep in the morning, something you’ll want all year round. If you’re not a fan of drapes, grab room darkening blinds!
5. Consistency is key.
It’s tempting to give in to Little Darling when she pitches a fit for candy at the grocery store. If you give in to her demands, she’ll just ratchet up the decibels on your next visit. That same principle applies to adjusting your clocks back. Stick to later naps and a later bedtime to avoid prolonged pain. According to Kim West, social worker and sleep coach, children will adjust to age-appropriate sleep requirements when you are consistent. This means having the exact same routine every night and responding in the same way to your child’s testing.
6. Minimize exposure to artificial light.
There’s solid evidence that exposure to artificial light limits the production of melatonin, a key hormone in regulating the sleep/wake cycle. This goes for TV too. Cut the pre-bedtime cartoons and opt for relaxing, sleep-friendly activities like reading or music.