Daylight Savings & Children

How to “Spring” ahead and not miss a beat.

Daylight savings is here and I have to say, longer days are most appealing to me. There is nothing worse then finishing work for the day and it’s pitch black when you walk out the door. Warm weather, flowers blossoming, grass growing, kids playing, oh I must say it is my favorite time of year here in the Northeast, where yesterday it was 60 outside and this morning there are already 4 inches of snow on the ground.

Daylight savings can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because children’s biological clocks are set to wakeup at the same time, regardless of what that clock now says. It can also increase our sleep debt — especially in our children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning based on their circadian rhythm.

There are things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go a little smoother & easier for everyone, including yourself.

  1. Set the Clock Sunday Morning- In my experience, I have seen this to be the best. Don’t stress about it like many parents do, just wake up Sunday, wrangle the troops, enjoy breakfast, then go to each room and adjust all of the clocks. I feel like psychologically this helps too!
  2. Our Surroundings: Blackout curtains are helpful to set the stage for bedtime. I also don’t encourage night lights, as they can impact a child’s natural release of melatonin.
  3. Nap Adjustment & Bedtime- It’s important to still continue to look at the naps and adjust the day appropriately so that bedtime still happens smoothly and children go down without being over-tired. Here are the guidelines to adjust everyone, based on age.

Newborns: For babies, you would just put them down at their normal bedtime, which for this age should be between 7pm & 8pm. You will want to pay attention to awake time during the day, and space naps according to the 60–90 minute general parameter of awake time for that age. This age is the easiest to adjust because they LOVE sleep!

Infants: Children over 6 months of age should now have a pretty predictable bedtime each night. If bedtime is normally 7pm, on Sunday evening, move bedtime to 7:45pm (or 15 minutes earlier than their body ‘thinks’ it is.) Then on night 2, put them down at 7:30pm, night 3 at 7:15pm and then on night 4 at 7:00pm, their usual and normal bedtime.

For naps, simply adjust their naps to shift into the new schedule. If they normally nap at 10:00am, you would put them down at 10:30am. Same with the afternoon nap, if it’s normally 2:00pm then you would put them down at 2:30pm. This is appropriate for children who are also only on 1 nap at day. Do this for the 4 days as you adjust nighttime sleep, then on day 5, everything goes back to normal for naps and bedtime.

Toddlers & Children: For these lovely little ones who may no longer be napping, I suggest you split the difference and on night 1, you put them to bed at 7:30pm. Do this for 3 nights, then on night 4, they go back to their 7:00pm bedtime. If the days are long and children seem tired, I suggest some quiet time with a book after lunch or a chance to relax and chill on the couch with you to give them a chance to decompress (& who doesn’t love snuggles.)

Children may take a little longer to settle, it’s ok and normal. It takes about a week for everything to level out, be patient and consistent in your routine and enjoy the extra hours of daylight!

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