Every parent knows the aches and pains brought on by that biannual ritual of springing forward/falling back: DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME. And it can wreak havoc on the whole family’s sleep schedule. Kids especially have a hard time adjusting their body clocks, and sleep deprivation can tax their developing systems, leading to changes in attention span, mood, and even appetite. Here are some proactive things you can do to smooth the Daylight Savings transition for you and your family. (And remember to push your clocks an hour back this Sunday, November 4!)
1. Take a gradual approach
Whether you’re gaining or losing an hour, start adjusting bedtime by 15 minutes per day, for about 4 days before the time change. In the spring, that means bedtimes should be getting gradually earlier. In the fall, bedtimes should be adjusted in the opposite direction, getting later by 15 minutes each day, for 4 days, until the change. This gradual approach will be gentler on their systems (and your sanity). And it’ll have less dramatic consequences than if you try to adjust by a full hour in a single day.
2. Cover those windows
One of the challenges in adjusting bedtime is controlling natural light. Convincing kids to go to bed when it’s still light out, or wake up when it’s still dark, makes sticking to bedtime and wake up rituals a lot more challenging. Investing in blackout shades or another heavy window covering can help you better manage the amount of light coming into their bedrooms — a lifesaver in the summer months, when the nights are brighter. Doctors also recommend dimming the lights in your child’s bedroom and abstaining from screens, or blue light, for at least an hour before bedtime. This helps encourage melatonin production, the naturally occurring hormone that helps your internal body clock regulate itself.
3. Keep to a routine
Kids love routine. To help stay on track during daylight savings changes, keep the bedtime routine in tact as much as possible. If you don’t have one, this can be a great time to establish something. Bathing, reading together, cuddling, mindfulness exercises, or doing another mellow, relaxing activity in the run up to bedtime help kids get into the right head space for bedtime. Plus it’s great bonding time for parent and child.
4. Take care of yourself
Remember that everyone, including you, may be a little extra moody after the time change. Cut the family AND yourself some substantial slack! And remember that things will stabilize. Within a week’s time (maybe 2 weeks, max), you should all be feeling back on track. In the meantime: there’s always coffee.