Although here in the Northeast it seems we’re still deep in winter’s clutches, we’re on a path to “spring sleep forward” and set the clocks one hour later this coming Sunday, March 8. For those of us with little ones who aren’t on a school or daycare schedule this can be something of a blessing. On the other hand, it could be a rude awakening (literally) for grownups and kids who essentially have to wake up an hour earlier in the morning in order to get to work and school on Monday.
Here are my tips for making the Spring Sleep Daylight Saving Time transition as smooth as possible for the whole family.
♦ For adults and older children who need to go to school on Monday, I recommend making the switch on Friday night / Saturday morning rather than Sunday just to give everyone an extra weekend day to adjust to the change. That means going to bed early on Friday night and waking up a bit early on Saturday. While this may feel hard to do, it’s actually easier to wake up early and still be able to have a relatively lazy extra hour at home rather than feeling the shock of getting up early AND having to rush to work or school on Monday!
♦ If you have a baby with multiple naps and feedings per day who will need to go to daycare on Monday, begin moving waking time, naps, and bedtimes 15 minutes early a few days ahead of the official time change, and keep moving earlier every day or two until you’re at at least 45 minutes early by Saturday. If you start on Wednesday or Thursday then by Sunday or Monday your baby’s schedule will already match the new time on the clock.
♦ Make an effort to expose everyone in the family, yourself included, to bright light early in the morning in the days before the switch to help ease the transition to your earlier wake times. Likewise try dimming the lights or drawing the curtains in the early evening to help the switch to earlier bedtimes.
♦ Adjust feeding or mealtimes and other scheduled activities along with sleep times, and be especially consistent with your usual routines during the adjustment phase. So, for example, if you’re moving everything 30 minutes early on Friday and dinner is usually at 5:30, bath time’s at 6:00 and bedtime at 7:00, make sure that dinner’s at 4:30, bath time at 5:30 and bedtime at 6:30.
♦ If you happen to already have a little early riser, especially a baby or toddler who is not in daycare and whose daily schedule you can control, now’s your big chance to make things better! Try shifting everything, including feeding or mealtimes, only 15 or 30 minutes early instead of the full hour. This way their wake time, feeding times and bedtime will all happen 30 to 45 minutes later on the clock after the time change! (Just remember to move those feeding times later, too).
♦ As we head into spring and summer the sun starts showing up earlier in the morning and sticks around longer into the evening. If you’ve seen Frozen as many times as I have and have very young children of your own, this line from young Anna could strike a nerve:
Now’s a great time to invest in blackout shades to keep your child’s room dark and encourage better sleep. That way you can be spared Elsa’s pain and avoid bedtime battles because the sun’s still out, or too-early wakings on spring and summer mornings. Worried that darkening your child’s room isn’t natural? We human beings evolved on the equator and our little ones were meant to sleep when it’s dark there (around 12 hours year-round) rather than where many of us live today. Help your kids do what comes naturally and free their sleep from the northern sun’s drastically changing schedule!
Dr. Sasha Carr is a pediatric sleep expert dedicated to helping families have happier days together. In addition to running her private sleep coaching practice, Off to Dreamland, Dr. Carr serves on the faculty of the Family Sleep Institute. For additional sleep help, sign up for Dr. Carr’s free sleep tips or visit her site at offtodreamland.com
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