As if bedtime wasn't hard enough for parents with small children, we are faced with the added drama of the clocks falling back and springing forward twice a year. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can really throw things out of whack for children on a strict schedule. Luckily parents have a few options. After consulting with local Child & Family Sleep Consultant, Carolina Romanyuk and Clinical Social Worker, Sarah Gugluizza LCSW, we're happy to provide you with some great tips for an easy transition and healthier overall sleep for the whole family!
METHOD 1: The Gradual Shift
Sarah and Carolina both recommend adjusting your child's bedtime routine 10-15 minutes every night or two, so within a week they will have gradually shifted and adjusted to the new bedtime. You can start this before the time change, or after. If bedtime routine usually starts at 7PM and you begin the gradual adjustment tonight, it would look something like this: Thursday & Friday Night: 7:15, Saturday Night: 7:30 (tonight the clocks will fall back 1 hour), Sunday Night: 6:30 PM, Monday & Tuesday Night: 6:45, Wednesday Night: 7:00 - and you're back on schedule!! Likewise, you can do gradual adjustment for wakeup time as well, and Carolina reminds us not to forget about adjusting nap time.
METHOD 2: Follow the Clock & Cues
This cold turkey type strategy might make sense for some families, especially those who don't follow a strict bedtime or who frequently travel with their children across time zones. With this method, you simply follow the clock and don't worry about what time it feels like or should be based on the time change. If bedtime is usually somewhere between 7-8PM, aim to keep that routine but have some flexibility based on the needs and tiredness of your child. This strategy can also work when traveling across several time zones with your children, since adjusting 15 minutes a night simply won't work when you find yourself halfway across the globe! The idea is that the child will adjust naturally, one way or another!
Stick to the Routine: Having a bedtime routine is essential for babies, toddlers, and school-aged children. Sticking to this routine through daylight saving time change and while traveling can really make a huge difference in helping your child adjust well. If you don't have a clear bedtime routine yet, now is a great time to create one. For example: dinner, bath, brush teeth, pajamas, story time, in bed, song, lights out.
Don't Stress: Sarah warns, "If you become stressed over the time change and either voice the stress or say it with your body language, your children will notice. With that, they can either become anxious about it or start pushing those buttons of yours and doing everything but bedtime."
Screens Off: According to the National Sleep Foundation, the light from screens can confuse the circadian rhythm of children and adults alike. They recommend not using any screens (including TV, computer, phone, tablet) for at least 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. Sarah recommends quiet and calm activities before bedtime, including reading or coloring, puzzles, or building blocks.
Mood Lighting: Just as turning off all screens can help, so can setting the mood by adjusting lights in the home. Simply dimming the lights before bedtime can help. There are even light bulbs, Lighting Science's Good Night LED for example, claiming their use in the evening hours will support your body's natural melatonin production and help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and have a better quality sleep.
It Takes Time: Carolina assures us it can take 1-2 weeks for a child to fully adjust to the time change. If sleep troubles persist after this, it's probably time to re-evaluate the cause and possible solutions.
We hope these tips will help you and your family successfully adjust to this weekend's time change! Have any sleep-related stories or tips to share, or have questions? Leave a comment below! Additionally, the first 10 families who contact Sleep Consultant Carolina with the subject "Fall Back Help" will receive a complimentary 20 minute sleep strategy phone consultation!
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