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How to help your child adjust to Daylight Savings

Daylight savings is around the corner, coming up Sunday, March 11, 2012.  Time to “spring forward” the clocks.   It can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because with this, comes an adjustment that does not happen immediately.  This is because children tend to be more structured in their bedtime and wake up around the same time each morning and that is why people usually can see a greater affect on children when the time changes.

However there are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go a little smoother.  My recommendation is to leave your clock alone Saturday night.  Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast, then go around your house and change your clocks.  Psychologically, it will feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time.

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 7:00pm for example, you would put him to bed at 7:30pm on Sunday night, the first night of the time change.  Do this for 3 nights, putting him to bed 30 minutes later than normal, then on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time, 7:00pm or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.

If you have a toddler ages one and older, on Sunday the first day of the time change, you would put him for his first nap 30 minutes later than normal.   So if he naps at 9:30am usually, you would put him down at 10:00am.  You would do the same with the afternoon nap if he takes an afternoon nap.  For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00pm, you would put him down at 7:30pm.   Do this for 3 nights after the time change and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00pm or normal bedtime and on 5th day move naptimes back to normal time.   So if your child naps at 9:30am, put him down at 9:30am and so on with the rest of the day.

If you have a baby and his bedtime has become predictable (usually over 6 months old) meaning he is always going to bed around the same time each night move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the normal time.  For example if bedtime is 7:00pm the first night of the time change you would put him down at 7:45pm, the second night 7:30pm, and so on.  In four nights you should be back to 7:00pm.   If their bed is not predictable (3-6 months old) simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone.

Another tip that is helpful for those of us living in the Northwestern part of the US is to darken your child’s room.   Your child may wake up too early with the sun rising so early now in the morning and may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside so darkening the room can be very helpful.  Even though there is extra hours of daylight children still need the same amount of sleep.

It may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep, this is normal, since the time is different initially they won’t be as tired.   It usually takes about a week for children and babies to completely adjust to the new time, some children it can take up to a month.  Be patient and consistent, it will happen.

About the author

Shannon Glenn

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Children Consulting and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist. She is dedicated to helping parents assist their children and babies in developing healthy sleep habits. With a B.A. in Psychology, Shannon has worked extensively with children and their families for over 15 years in a variety of settings.  She has been offering sleep solutions for over six years.  

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