For parents in North America, Halloween this year may pack an extra-scary punch. Why? Because Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 AM this coming Sunday, November 1. In other words, since your littles don’t care what time it is on the clock they will be celebrating the morning after what may have been a late night of Halloween fun by doing the exact opposite of sleeping in (which is what you’ll wish they would do).
As a pediatric sleep expert and family sleep coach, I’ve received many calls and messages from anxious parents these days. Here are my tips for making the seasonal adjustment as smooth as possible for the littles and bigs at your house.
1) If possible, start gradually making the shift to a new schedule a few days ahead. It helps to start making some adjustments ahead of time when you can. So, for example, since DST ends on a Sunday morning, you can move bedtime a little later on Thursday or Friday, and likewise encourage your children to stay in bed (or leave the baby in her crib) a little bit later in the morning. Keep adjusting rising and bedtimes 15-20 minutes each day until you’ve moved a full hour later, so that when Monday morning arrives it’s not such a big deal.
2) Use the familiarity of your children’s whole routine to your advantage. If you possibly can, start shifting other timed events of the day such as mealtimes so that your children’s entire body clock can shift. Use the flexibility of the weekend to shift mealtimes for older children and nap times for little ones who spend weekdays at daycare or nursery school.
3) Make the DST change at your house one day early on Saturday morning. If making a gradual change isn’t an option or just seems like too much trouble, try changing the clocks at home before you go to bed on Friday night, and use the new time on the clock as you go about your day on Saturday. This will give everyone in your family an extra day to adjust before Monday comes around. Just remember that sports practice, Halloween parties, and other plans outside of the house will still be on the “official” clock time!
4) Make the light and melatonin connection work in your favor. Whether you want to move a schedule up or back, controlling your family’s exposure to light can help. Exposure to light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and makes it harder to fall asleep at night and easier to wake up in the morning. Draw the curtains and keep lights dim during the first hour of the morning in the days leading up to the DST change. After that first hour has passed, greet the day by turning on all the lights, throwing back the curtains and even going outside if possible. In the early evening as the sun starts to make its exit, use interior lighting to keep your house extra bright for an extra hour. Once the time on the clock shifts, go back to doing things normally.
5) Set a good example and follow your own rules. This is a great opportunity to model responsible self-care to your children by being mindful about your own sleep. Talk about why healthy sleep is important to you, personally, as well as to the family as a while.
Don’t worry, moms and dads: with a little planning, “falling back” on Halloween needn’t be as painful or scary as you fear!\
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