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Daylight savings time starts this coming Sunday, March 9. We turn our clocks forward and miss out on an hour of precious sleep. It tends to be less problematic for most little ones than the end of Daylight Savings in the fall (and may even help parents of early risers finally establish a later wake time). Child Sleep Expert Amy Lage, Graduate of the Family Sleep Institute and Founder of Well Rested Baby, shares some tips to get through the time change with minimal sleep loss.
We all have internal biological clocks called circadian rhythms that are genetically controlled. These clocks create an internal timing mechanism for sleep. Sleeping in sync with these rhythms will produce the most restorative and best quality sleep possible. When we physically shift our time clocks, our body does not immediately know that this change has occurred. Older children and adults easily adjust to this change over several days, but babies and toddlers may benefit from some assistance. A great way to help accelerate your little ones adjustment to the new time is to regulate their light exposure. As we they will now be waking earlier in the morning and going to bed earlier at night, we want to provide extra light in the morning and extra dark in the late afternoon and evening. You can do this by getting out in the morning for some fresh air or by throwing opening all of the blinds and playing in a sunlit room. Make your home as dim as possible in the hour or so leading up to bedtime shutting off any unnecessary lights and closing curtains and blinds. Keeping the activity level in your home as calm as possible will also ease your child into a sleepy frame of mind even if there is still daylight outside. As the days grow longer and it stays brighter out well into the evening, it is crucial to ensure that your child’s room is as dark as possible so that it is conducive to sleep. One suggestion is to invest in room-darkening or blackout curtains, which are readily available at many stores and online.
Your best bet is to switch everything to the new clock cold turkey. Make sure you are consistent and move out all other daily cues by an hour (like meal times and bath time etc.) so your child is still able to follow these events and understand what is coming next. Children thrive on following schedules and social cues – so moving everything consistently will greatly assist them in adjusting. Note that you may have to rouse your child at his/her normal wake-time for a few days because of the loss of one hour of sleep.
If your child is a bit more challenged by change or is napping multiple times during the day (or you are concerned that moving to the new time cold turkey will be too stressful for both of you), you can make the switch gradually over a few days by only making each nap and bedtime a half hour later. For example, if your normal schedule is Nap 1: 9 a.m., Nap 2: noon, Nap 3: 3 p.m., and bedtime: 7 p.m., it will change to a half hour later. After a day or two, you can add the additional 30 minutes to bring your child all the way to the new clock time. Again, remember that we are not just changing sleep times, but moving all cues (meals, bath etc.) in the same increments so that your child has an easier time following what comes next. This will help your child ease into the time change more smoothly.
For more information, visit wellrestedbaby.com.