Daylight Saving Time
Experts Weigh In On Getting Your Kids Adjusted to Day Light Saving Time As Painlessly As Possible
Be prepared, parents. That spring forward is coming.
Buckle up buttercups, it’s about that time to “spring” those clocks forward an hour and disrupt everyone’s sleep schedules for just a bit, until everyone gets used to the time change. Yes, it’s that time of year, and on Sunday, March 13, daylight saving time will begin. Sure it’s a minor inconvenience to folks who don’t have kiddos — I guess you do lose an hour of sleep. But have you ever tried to wrestle a toddler or preschooler into bed when the sun is still shining outside and in their brains, it’s only 6:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. and they want to watch just one more (read ten more) episodes of Daniel Tiger? I know this isn’t just our family.
Anything dealing with sleep gives me horrific anxiety — between the age of 4 months old until 6 months old, my son slept in 30 minute increments day and night — so it’s understandable why I am desperately searching how to adjust your child’s sleep to daylight saving time. Parents, I see you. I see you Googling about infants, babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even some older kids. Don’t worry, though, I’ve got you covered here with some incredible sleep experts and a pediatrician on how to prepare those kiddos for DST.
How to adjust your baby’s sleep to Daylight Saving Time
Thankfully, if you have a baby younger than three months old, you should be all set when it comes to this time change says Janey Reilly, CEO and Founder of WeeSleep. “Since the baby's circadian rhythm is not likely set in stone yet, don’t worry about adjusting. Your baby can wake up at the same time in the morning, just don’t force them to stay awake longer than usual trying to stay on schedule,” she says. “When it comes to the morning, it’s okay to wake up your baby a little earlier. Morning light can actually help them wake up, and then in turn, helps them fall asleep faster when it comes to bedtime.”
For babies between 3 and 6 months old, Reilly says to give them a week to adjust to a 15-minute change. For example, when moving their bedtime from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. (which is really 7 p.m.), on days 1 and 2 move their bedtime to 6:45 p.m., on days 3 and 4, move their bedtime to 6:30 p.m., on days 5 and 6, move their bedtime to 6:15 p.m., and on day 7, move it to 7 p.m.
But what about naps? Reilly says, “Naps are more flexible when it comes to adjusting for daylight savings. For babies over 6 months, transition naps to be 15 minutes earlier, every two days.”
“For babies under 6 months, it’s typical that their naps aren’t as predictable,” she says. “Just remember that you don’t want their last nap of the day to be too close to bedtime. They will still need 1-2.5 hours of being awake before their target bedtime (depending on their age) so wake them up accordingly.”
Additionally, pediatrician Sharifa Glass tells Romper if you miss the week-long preparation above, try eliminating one of your child’s daytime naps for the next 2 to 3 days. “Continue your child’s normal bedtime routine such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a book. Your child will be ready to fall asleep at the new Daylight Saving bedtime,” she says.
How to adjust your toddler and preschooler’s sleep to Daylight Saving Time
“Preparing little ones, ages 2 and up is the same as when they are 6 months old,” says Reilly. “Adjust to an earlier bedtime by 15 minutes, two days at a time.”
“When more than 3 years old, and when a child is no longer napping, you can adjust the bedtime only a little at a time. This age is much easier as they also comprehend bedtime and ‘time for sleep’ they won’t even notice the change so much and it will be an easier transition,” she says.
Andrea De La Torre, the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Answers tells Romper, “To prepare any baby or child you first have to know what your goal is in the long run. Do you need to keep the same schedule to be able to make daycare/work/school? Would you like to have some more time to sleep in? When you know that, then the second part is actually very easy this time around.”
“If you need to stick to the same schedule on Monday and you do not have a very sensitive child, then just wake them up at the same time you did before the time change. Do recognize this will be an hour earlier for their bodies so you may have a tired child, but just follow the same schedule.”
“If you do not mind a change in schedule and ‘technically sleeping in more’ at least according to the new clock, then just let your child wakeup whenever they do, and move up their whole schedule by an hour. So let’s say if they were waking up at 6 a.m., taking a nap at 12, and bedtime by 6 p.m., when the time changes they’ll be waking up at 7 a.m., needing a nap at 1 p.m. and be ready for bed at 7 p.m.
More tips on springing forward
“For babies and kids of all ages, it’s important to expose the child or children to as much sunlight as possible during the day,” says De La Torre. “The sun is important for our body’s alertness. Also remember to make the child’s sleep environment as conducive to sleep as possible (dark, cool and quiet). This will help cue the child’s body to release melatonin and relax.”
Reilly suggests using blackout blinds to keep the sun out of their room to help keep that newly earlier shining sunlight out, using sound machines, and trying toddler alarm clocks for older children. “Also known as ‘OK-to-wake’ or ‘GRO clock’ alarm clocks, these are a great tool for setting desired sleep and wake times,” she says.
“These clocks allow you to set a time based on when you decide it’s okay for your child to wake ... and can make it easier for a child over 3 years old who can comprehend and be able to follow a schedule and clock cues.”
Most importantly, Reilly says don’t panic. “Remember that even if you make a plan and feel on top of things, it may not quite go according to schedule and that's OK! It typically takes people a full week to fully adjust to a time change, and this applies to children, too,” she says.
“Take a breath, relax, and keep things simple by sticking to a steady daily routine. Like we always say, children love routine, and most will naturally adjust to the time change within a week or so. Don’t give up!”
“Be patient with your child and yourself. They may get more overtired than usual and be a little more cranky as their bodies go through this change (think jet lag),” De La Torre says.
Benefits of DST
Believe it or not, there could be some potential benefits to DST (we must think positive, people). “Setting the clock forward one hour in the spring season has the benefit of providing more hours of sunlight, which leads to more outdoor activity and exercise,” says Glass. “I prefer this spring schedule to the winter schedule. It gives us more sunlight, which helps with our sleep,” De La Torre says.