Time springs forward March 11 this year. Daylight-saving time signals spring’s arrival: blossoms emerging, extended playtime and spring break festivities. But, it also can mean a tough time for parents and kids at bedtime.
“Moms with little ones are either bracing for these sleep disturbances or not thinking about it at all and will scramble to get children to sleep afterward with much frustration,” says University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant professor of pediatrics – and mother of two – Jennifer Chambers, M.D.
Chambers offers some tips to resolve potential sleep issues:
- Stick to the schedule. Be strict with your children’s normal bedtime in the week prior to the time change. If bedtime is 8 p.m., start your bedtime routine early enough that they can be asleep by bedtime or a little earlier.
- Eat meals on time or 30 minutes earlier. Meal times help set the day's routine more than anything else.
- Put kids to bed a little early the night of the time change so that they wake up earlier. (You can savor this last night of easy bedtime after the kids are asleep.)
- Don't let them sleep late the first morning of daylight-saving time; you need them to be tired by bedtime. Early morning sun will reset the internal clock faster than anything else, so get them outside early in the morning if possible.
- Shift naps earlier and do not extend them the first week. Some may be tempted to skip a nap in hopes this will make the child go to bed earlier, but some children will not rest as well during the night if they are overtired.
- Explain daylight-saving time if your child is old enough to understand. They will be less likely to resist going to bed “early” if they understand it. Many children will find it intriguing and ask a multitude of questions about the ability to change time.
- Be a little lax with bedtime the week after the time change. Set bedtime 30 minutes later than normal during this week to make the transition smoother and return children to their regular bedtime the next week, after their bodies have adjusted. But, still begin the bedtime routine at the regular time so they can calm down and get sleepy.
“Personally, I have sleep-finicky kids, so I do all of these things and still have to hang dark sheets over the windows that first week,” Chambers says. “But you need to remove the sheets in the morning, so the light can come through the window to help reset their internal clock. Hanging the sheets is cumbersome, but it works. After that, their own little bodies will adjust and begin to take the lead and get them to bed without so much work on your part.”
Some parents choose to make bedtime later in the spring or summer months. Chambers says this is reasonable — but not more than 30 minutes, in order to maintain good sleep habits and prevent kids from being overtired.
Finally, Chambers says to relax.
“American parents tend to stress over their child's sleep schedule more than parents in other countries. As long as you are not filling their days with too many scheduled and out-of-the-home activities, most children will adhere to a sensible sleep schedule. Children need down time at home and a relaxing bedtime routine, accompanied by a listening ear to hear about their day and lots of snuggles.”
For patient information, go to www.uabmedicine.org.