How To Prepare Your Kid for a Time Change

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Across the United States, people are petitioning to make daylight saving time permanent—and we’d hazard a guess that the charge is being led by parents of young children. If their efforts are effective, gone would be the days of “spring forward” and “fall back.” For parents, it would mean no longer disrupting their child’s sleep schedule twice a year when the clocks change. If you’ve ever been through daylight saving with kids, you’ll be able to see the appeal. We certainly can!

As of today, however, biannual daylight saving time shifts are still the standard. That’s why—whether you want it to change or not—we recommend learning how to prepare for daylight savings. Understanding how the time change can impact babies, toddlers, and older kids (and what to do about it) makes it all the more surmountable. While we can’t promise there will never be tears at bedtime or early mornings, we can share the best tips we know. Read on to get the scoop on how to handle daylight savings with kids.

How Does Daylight Saving Affect Kids’ Sleep?

Daylight saving time can affect everyone. It’s known to impact sleep quality, as well as when you wake up and fall asleep. One study on how daylight saving time in the spring affects young children found that, on average, kids lose 15-20 minutes of sleep per night after the clocks change. How long this lasts varies, ranging from about a week to nearly a month. (If sleep disruption persists outside of this range, it’s possible you’re dealing with sleep regression.) Researchers found that responses differ depending on age. This means daylight savings impacts toddler sleep differently than baby sleep. In the study, younger infants took longer to return to their “normal” than toddlers.

Do You Need to Adjust Their Bedtime?

Some parents choose to adjust their kids’ bedtime in the lead-up to daylight saving time (much like some will gradually change sleep habits to adjust their baby to time changes from travel). While you can slowly shift bedtime based on whether you’re springing forward or falling back, we’re of the mind that it isn’t worth it.

To change bedtime, you shift it 10 minutes earlier over the course of the five to six days leading up to daylight saving time. (In the fall, you gradually shift it 10 minutes later instead.) But that isn’t all you have to do. You also need to adjust nap and meal times. Continually updating the schedule each day can be a lot of work (and math!), especially if you have multiple kids and bedtimes to factor in.

If you keep bedtime as is, you may temporarily deal with a child that takes longer to fall asleep or wakes up earlier, but they will adapt with a bit of time.

How To Prepare for Daylight Saving

For a smooth transition when the clocks change, preparing for daylight saving is important. Here are a few things you can do in advance.

1. Get plenty of sleep

If you want to know how to prepare your baby for daylight saving, we have to start with the most important point: They should sleep while they can. This means the night before the clocks shift isn’t the time to become less strict with your child’s sleep schedule. Try to keep things consistent, so they’ll get a good night’s sleep. If they go into Daylight Savings Time overtired and cranky, no one is going to be set up for success (including Mom and Dad).

2. Explain daylight saving time for kids

While the concept of daylight saving time won’t mean much to babies and toddlers, kids that are a bit older may be able to understand more of what’s going on. Use the days leading up to the change to explain what happens to them. This will help prepare them for when their schedule changes. If you discuss it a few days before, make sure to remind them closer to the event as well.

How To Handle Daylight Savings Time

Daylight saving with toddlers, babies, and older kids can be stressful. After the time change happens, these tips can help make things easier for you and your little one.

1. Keep sleep routines consistent

To make the adjustment less of a shock, keep the rest of your child’s sleep routine the same. This includes bath time, brushing their teeth, reading your nightly story, and so on. The same principle should apply to nap times. These routines can be comforting and help provide sleep cues. If your kiddo knows bed always comes after their bath, it can help them start to wind down even when it’s not their normal bedtime.

2. Adjust the lighting

Speaking of sleep cues, light provides many of the cues that indicate it’s time to sleep and wake up. If daylight saving time impacts how much light is in your kid’s bedroom, you can make adjustments to establish more consistency.

During spring forward: Depending on how early bedtime is, it may still be light out when it’s time to sleep. Use blackout curtains to block out the light. In the morning, it will be darker later. Make sure to open the curtains, but you may also need to turn on more lights to help indicate it’s time to wake up.

During fall back: When the time changes in the fall for daylight saving, your baby waking early is a real possibility. The same is true for toddlers, older kids, and even yourself. It will be darker earlier in the night, with an extra hour of light in the morning. This may wake them up earlier than you’d prefer, but you can use curtains and blinds to help block the morning light.

Speaking generally, at night, it’s best to reduce light. Besides blocking light that’s coming from outdoors, you can dim the lights in kid rooms and also shut off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Once it’s time to wake up, light is a must. Turn on lamps, open blinds, and even go outside if schedules allow.

3. Be gentle

We’ve all felt a little out of sorts the day after the clocks change. And it’s normal for the same thing to happen to your kids. Keep this in mind if they’re crankier than normal or taking longer to get to bed, and try to be sympathetic.

4. Try relaxation techniques

If sleep is evading your child, consider what could help them relax. Calming music can be a great option. In the same vein, white noise machines are often helpful for falling—and staying—asleep. For babies, massage can also help improve sleep. Research shows a quick 15-minute massage can help them fall asleep faster.

When Should You Put Your Child To Bed During Daylight Saving?

As we mentioned, we recommend not adjusting schedules during daylight saving. That means if your child normally goes to sleep at 8 PM, try to stick with that.

When the clocks spring forward, your little one may not be tired at their normal bedtime. Go through the complete routine and encourage them to wind down even if they aren’t sleepy.

In the fall, daylight saving time might mean your child is tired earlier than normal. If that’s the case, you don’t need to force their normal bedtime. You can look for signs they’re tired and put them down earlier if needed.

The important thing to remember is that we all adjust to daylight saving time eventually—kids included.

Next: Learn about how dream feeding can help your baby sleep for longer stretches of time.


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