Most parents don’t mind so much in the Fall when they gain an extra hour, but it sends fear through people’s bones when they hear they are going to have to lose an hour of sleep in the Spring!
If I had it my way there would not be a daylight savings time. I think it really does affect not only children’s sleep patterns but adults too. In fact, 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 it the most in young children.
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 the night before so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an 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!
Naps: If for example, your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30am, you will adjust this to 9:00am for the first 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 their schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap. On the fourth day just get in line with the new time so your baby is back going down for naps at their regular time.
Bedtime: Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7:00pm I recommend putting that child to bed at 6:30pm for the first three nights following the time change. This will feel like 7:30pm to your child. 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 to any kind of change in sleeping habits. On the fourth day, just get in line with the new time so your baby is back going to bed at their regular time.
Mornings: 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 they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock but they can’t 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 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. You don’t want to send a message that waking up at 6:00am is okay now. So if they normally wake at 7:00am but is now up at 6:00am you will wait 10 minutes the first day, 20 minutes the second day, then 30 minutes the third 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.