On Sunday, March 11, the clocks will jump forward one hour for Daylight Savings Time. Without fail, this biannual clock-changing ritual cues a chorus of complaints from parents. For parents of babies, tots, and preschoolers, “springing forward” and “falling back” aren’t just hassles—changing the clock can quite literally can undo the hard work you’ve put into your child’s sleep routine. Many moms and dads of young kids find that DST changes throw off kids’ bedtimes and naptimes. An hour’s worth of time change is a lot for little bodies to handle, and some particularly sensitive kids (or those who are already overtired or undertired to begin with) can take days to adapt.
Want to help your little one take the time change in stride? Here’s how to “spring forward” without missing a beat.
(For this example, I’ll use a 7 am wake-up and a 7 am bedtime. I realize that many kids wake and go to bed at different times, so adjust as needed for your personal situation)
- 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 pm rolls around and kids still aren’t tired, parents get understandably grumpy.
- The key to helping your child fall asleep at his normal time is waking him up earlier in the morning. See, if he sleeps until hisbody's regular wake-up time (say, 7 am) on clock-change day, the clock will read 8. If you try to put him to bed that night at 7 pm, 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.
- Beginning a couple of days before the change, start waking your child 30 minutes earlier in the morning, and putting her 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 am and putting her to bed at 6:30 pm. 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 am standard time, wake him at 7 daylight time. (This will actually be 6 am, 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.
- Having woken up at 7 am, she’ll be ready for sleep at her 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 will be ready to snooze at his regular bedtime and you won’t have a wide-awake kid bouncing off the walls while you’re trying to watch Weekend Update on DVR. Daylight Savings Time, done!
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