This year, the clock jumps forward on Sunday, March 9. Ironically, “spring forward” can actually set you back, at least when it comes to your child’s bedtime.
When the clock moves forward in the spring, the most common complaint from parents is that kids won’t go to bed “on time.” It’s not hard to understand why: When the clock reads 8 pm, your child’s body thinks that it’s 7. When 9 or 10 p.m. rolls around and kids still aren’t tired, parents get understandably grumpy.
Here's where the trouble starts: if a child sleeps until his body's regular wake-up time (say, 7 a.m.) on clock-change day, the clock will read 8. If you try to put him to bed that night at 7 p.m., his regular bedtime, only 11 hours have elapsed since he woke up, and he’s not likely to be tired enough to go to sleep. This is especially true if he slept a bit later than normal that morning. DST occurs on a weekend, so that’s not uncommon for parents to let their kids sleep later than normal. Sleeping in on weekends isn’t a big deal, but when you add the time change, things can quickly go awry.
Ready to change this yearly pattern? Here’s how.
(For this example, I use a boy with a 7 p.m. bedtime. Kids' bedtimes vary, so adjust as needed for your family's situation.)
The key to preserving your child's regular bedtime after DST is waking him up earlier in the morning. Beginning a couple of days before the change, start waking your child 30 minutes earlier in the morning, and putting him to bed 30 minutes earlier at night. Make corresponding adjustments to nap(s) by moving them 30 minutes earlier as well. In this example, that would mean waking your child at 6:30 a.m. and putting him to bed at 6:30 p.m. It may sound extreme, but remember, it’s only for a couple of days.
On the morning of DST, wake your child at his normal wakeup time. If he normally wakes at 7 a.m. Standard time, wake him at 7 Daylight time. (This will actually be 6 a.m., according to his body clock, but you’ve prepped him for this change already with a couple days of early wake-ups.)
Offer nap(s) at the normal times. No need to make adjustments here.
After waking at 7 a.m., he’ll be ready for sleep at his normal bedtime. No DST adjustment required.
If you’re starting last-minute and you don’t have time to prep your child a couple of days before the time change, no problem. Just remember to wake your child at his normal wake-up time on clock-change day. He will be tired, because he “lost” an hour of sleep. But he’ll be ready to snooze at his regular bedtime and the whole family can greet “spring” with a smile.
I’m an award-winning parenting and health journalist, sleep coach, and mom of three. My articles about sleep, health, and parenting appear regularly in over 90 national and regional magazines and on television, and I've been featured by YAHOO Shine, MSN Health, the TODAY Show, and TODAY Moms. Can I help you? Subscribe to The Well Rested Family to have sleep news, tips, and tactics delivered to your inbox or feed reader by clicking here.
I offer sleep coaching on call for tired parents ready to make a change. Take the first step by booking your session here.
Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!
My newest e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!