As the days grow shorter and fall approaches, it's time to prepare for one inevitable change: Daylight Savings Time (DST). While gaining an extra hour of sleep sounds appealing, us parents don't ususally get that, am i right?!? It can be a challenging adjustment for babies and young children.
The time shift can disrupt their sleep schedules and lead to cranky, overtired kids. However, with some planning and patience, you can help your little ones adapt smoothly to the fall DST transition. Here are some practical tips to make the time change easier for your baby or child.
Start a few days before the clock change by shifting your child's bedtime and wake-up time by 15 minutes every day. This gradual adjustment can make the transition less abrupt and help your child adapt to the new schedule more easily.
Note: If you have a well rested child, it is quite possible to make all changes on the day of the time change.
Darken the Room:
With the sun rising earlier, it may be harder for your child to stay asleep in the morning. Use blackout curtains or shades to create a darker sleeping environment, mimicking the pre-DST morning darkness.
Maintain a Consistent Routine:
Stick to your child's regular sleep and mealtime routines as closely as possible. Consistency provides comfort and helps signal to your child's body when it's time to sleep or wake up.
Be Mindful of Nap Timing:
If your child takes daytime naps, adjust their nap schedule gradually as well. Ensure naps align with their adjusted wake-up and bedtime to prevent overtiredness.
Natural Light Exposure:
In the days following the time change, expose your child to natural light in the morning. This helps reset their internal clock and reinforces the new wake-up time.
Also as the sun begins to set earlier, having a bit of outside play before bedtime can help to communicate to your child's body that its almost time to sleep.
Adjust Meal Times:
If your child's meals are based on a specific schedule, adjust meal times accordingly to match their new daily routine. Adjusting their entire schedule will make the transition to the new time go more smoothly.
Keep Your Bedtime Routine:
During the transition, your child might have trouble falling asleep. Stick to your usual bedtime routine, such as reading a story or singing a lullaby, to provide comfort and signal that it's time to sleep.
Children may take a week or more to fully adjust to the new schedule. Be patient and understanding if they have nighttime wake-ups or mood swings during this period. If you do see a night waking, it is always best to make up for it with an earlier bedtime the following day.
Limit Screen Time:
Avoid exposing your child to screens, especially close to bedtime, as the blue light emitted from screens can interfere with their sleep patterns.
Lead by Example:
Show your child that you too are adapting to the new schedule. Your consistency and calmness can help reassure them during the transition.
The fall DST transition can disrupt your child's sleep routine, but with these tips and some patience, you can help them adjust more smoothly. Gradual changes, maintaining routines, and creating an ideal sleeping environment are key strategies to help your baby or child through fall daylight savings. Remember that every child is unique, and the adjustment period may vary, so adapt these tips to best suit your child's needs. Soon, you and your little one will settle into the new schedule, and peaceful nights will return.
If you are looking for a slower adjustment or have forgotten to prepare, check out this post on Orlando Mom Collective for more options on how to handle the fall-back time change.
Wishing you rest,
Certified Sleep Consultant
*based in Orlando, FL, but work remotely with families