On Sunday, November 4th, many Americans will be woken up by the alarms on their iPhones to start the day, only to find that some of the clocks in the house don’t match the time that their phone screen displays. Many know that daylight saving time is around the corner, but so many don’t know when or why this takes place, and what effects it will have on their family’s sleep.
According to www.timeanddate.com, Daylight Saving Time is used to conserve energy and optimize use of daylight. This gives us a little more daylight time when it starts to get darker earlier in the evening and allows our bodies to be active while natural light is present. It also is supposed to save energy by shifting the time to get more daylight so that we don’t need to turn on artificial lights as long as we would if DST didn’t occur. The question still remains, knowing how important the darkness is for our melatonin production and circadian rhythm, what effects does DST have on our sleep?
Ask a person what time it is, and the first thing you will probably see is them reaching for their phones. Many don’t know when the time change actually occurs and are confused by whether the hour should be added or removed. More importantly, they don’t know what to do with their child’s sleep schedule. In fact, the time change not only effects children’s sleep patterns but adults, too. Additionally, statistically, there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after daylight savings time kicks in. It really does have an effect on all of us, and it can increase our sleep debt – especially in children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That is usually why people notice the effects of time change most in young children.
With that being said, I have been getting several questions asking for the best way to handle daylight saving time and children’s sleep. So what is the best way to handle it? My advice is to “split the difference.”
For “Fall Back,” my recommendation to all parents is just to leave the clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up one hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After your cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me! Since I know most people rely on their cell phone for the time, I would recommend designating a special watch or clock that you will not change the time on until your baby is fully adjusted in order to eliminate any confusion.
For example, if your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30, you will adjust the designated clock to 9:00 for the three days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap.
Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7p.m. I recommend putting your child to bed at 6:30p.m. for the first three days following the time change. (This will FEEL like 7:30p.m. to your child.) Be mindful, it will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everybody’s body roughly one week to adjust any kind of change in sleeping habits.
If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minutes, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. Just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30 it says 7:00 and let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, they will be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.
If you are dealing with a baby, you cannot do that. Do not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, because you do not want to send a message that getting up at 6 a.m. is okay now. So if she/he normally wakes up at 7:00, but is now up at 6:00, you will wait till ten after the first day, and then twenty after the next, then 6:30 the next day and, by the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and waking up at their usual hour.
On the fourth night, just get in line with the new time so your baby is back to going to bed when the clock says 7:00 pm. Adjust naps to the correct time on day 4 as well.
Doesn’t sound too bad right? Four days of adjustments and you will have your little sleeper back to being a pro. Needless to say, you have Luna Sleep Consulting to guide you in transitioning the sleep schedule of your little ones to make it a smooth shift into the time change if needed.