Every year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) sneaks up on me—twice! And every time, I find myself wondering, “How did I not remember this was coming?” I then vow to be more on top of “things like this” (what else falls in this category?) but promptly forget all about it once my kids are back on track. Well, this time, I am not only determined to be on top of the change, but I’m here to ensure that you and your kids will be, too, so we can all adjust smoothly and sleep well!
If you have already begun planning for this unwelcome disruption, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. But if you haven’t yet experienced the thrilling gift of confused and exhausted children (and parents!) that DST brings every six months, take a minute now to think about how once the clock has moved forward, your child who was waking up at 6 a.m. will begin waking up at 5 a.m. instead. Do I have your attention now? Your little one can’t tell time and frankly, doesn’t really care what the clock says, anyway! But I imagine you do, and you’re probably not eager to lose that precious hour of extra sleep, right? So how can we make this shift as painless (as restful!) as possible?
7 Days to DST
The best thing to do at this point is shift your little one’s schedule ahead by 10–15 minutes every couple of days in the lead-up to the official day. This means moving all naps, bedtimes, and other daily scheduled activities ahead by this amount of time so that they all work in unison.
Because you will be keeping your little one awake for a bit longer than usual each day during this time frame, try to get outside for some fresh air and a fun activity, but take care not to overdo it. We want them tired but not overtired, which could make this whole process even more challenging.
1 Day to DST
Rip off the Band-Aid and give the new timing a full-day dry run. Treat this day as though DST has officially happened, and adhere to the time change and the adjusted schedule as thoroughly as you can. Doing this a day before you actually have to gives you a bit of wiggle room with respect to naps and bedtime if things don’t go as smoothly as hoped the first time around.
Implementing the new timetable a day early will also give your little one an extra day to adjust before life as usual resumes on Monday, when they’ll have to return to daycare/school and you’ll have to either go to work or put on your “Who, me? I’m not exhausted!” face and entertain your little one all day!
Day of … (aka Sunday, March 12, 2017)
Because the time change happens overnight, we all technically “lose” an hour of sleep—unfortunately, that can’t be avoided. The next morning, though, whether your little one is fast asleep or wide awake at the normal wake up time, go ahead and start your day as you usually would. If you let your kiddo sleep that extra hour, it will throw off the rest of the day, so resist the temptation to let them keep snoozing. And ensure that any naps later that day as well as that evening’s bedtime comply with the “new normal” time. This may be a bit of a struggle for some, because the timing might feel a bit early to them, but stick with it!
To help keep bedtime from being too much of a challenge, make sure to spend lots of time outside being busy! Consider planning a special outing ahead of time that the whole family can look forward to, so no one has time to focus on (or be cranky about) this weirdly scheduled day.
3 Days Later
For the vast majority of kids, everything should be fine after approximately three days. However, a small number of little ones may struggle with the change—especially those whose days tend to be very structured around naps. In some rare cases, naps and bedtime might get completely out of whack, and your kiddo will struggle to adjust. If that is the case, take a lot of deep breaths and renew your commitment to following the regular schedule within the new time structure. So, if your 10 month old was doing great on a 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. nap schedule with a 7 p.m. bedtime originally, keep putting him/her down at those same times after DST. Your little one craves structure and needs sleep, and they will soon find a rhythm within the modified time frame.
For some lucky parents and kids, the time change will be seamless. We can all hope to be so fortunate, but for some, the adjustment may take a few days or even a week. As your little one settles into the adjusted schedule, make sure that you are getting the sleep you need to make your best choices for them. Remember, a rested baby is a happy baby, so watch for sleepy cues to help get everyone on the right track!
Samantha Shinewald, M.S.W. is a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at www.riseandshinebaby.com