It’s a snow day for many of us in the Northeastern US, but a sure sign of spring is right around the corner. On Sunday morning Daylight Saving Time kicks in and we all “spring forward” by setting the clocks one hour later. For those of us with little ones who stay at home the change this time change can be a bonus. On the other hand, it could be a rude awakening (literally) for grownups and kids who will need to get up at what feels like an hour earlier to get to work, school and daycare on Monday morning.
Here are my tips for making the Spring Sleep Daylight Saving Time transition as smooth as possible for the whole family.
♦ For adults and children who need to get up and out on Monday morning, I recommend making the switch on Friday night / Saturday morning rather than Sunday. This gives 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 out the door 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, naps and bedtime 20 minutes early today, then another 20 minutes tomorrow. Then on Sunday you will be closer to where you need to be for Monday morning.
♦ Make an effort to expose everyone in the family, yourself included, to bright light early in the morning in the days before the switch. It will help ease the transition to your earlier wake times. Likewise, start dimming the lights and closing window blinds in the early evening to help the switch to earlier bedtimes.
♦ Adjust feeding or meal times and other scheduled activities along with sleep times, and be especially consistent with your usual routines over this weekend. So, for example, if you’re moving everything 20 minutes early on today and dinner is usually at 5:30, bath time’s at 6:00 and bedtime at 7:00, make sure that dinner’s at 5:10, bath time at 5:40 and bedtime at 6:40.
♦ If you happen to already have a little “rooster” who wakes super early, now’s your big chance to make things better! Try shifting everything, including feeding or meals, 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 glorious springtime the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later every evening. If you’ve seen Frozen as many times as I have and have young children of your own, young Anna’s pronouncement could seem all too familiar:
♦ 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 near the equator and our little ones are oriented to sleep when it’s dark there — 12 hours year-round. Help your kids do what really comes naturally to them by shielding them from the northern sun’s more drastic seasonal changes.
Dr. Sasha Carr is a psychologist and child sleep expert who has helped over 1000 families get healthier sleep. Dr. Carr serves as a faculty member of the Family Sleep Institute and is the author of Putting Bungee to Bed, a bedtime picture book aimed at helping children be better sleepers. You can learn more about her services here.
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