Springing Forward

Today’s post will come as good news to many of us who are sick of being buried in snow and/or coping with our children’s early rising. Daylight saving time starts this weekend. At 2:00am on Sunday, March 8th, 2015, we will turn our clocks ahead one hour. The start of daylight saving time assures us that spring is indeed on the way, even if it is still 17 degrees outside.

What does this mean for our children’s sleep? Generally speaking, it’s a good thing. Children who were waking up at 5:30am will now be waking at 6:30am, a far more civilized hour.  However, those with late sleepers, may need to rouse their child so they don’t sleep the morning away.

What should we do in anticipation of the time changes? We’ve got two options. One is to do absolutely nothing. Just go with it. On Saturday night, put your child to bed at the usual time and allow her to wake at her usual time (though of course, the clock will read an hour later – i.e. 8am instead of the usual 7am). For the next few days, naps and bedtime may all feel a bit too early. For example, if your child’s bedtime is 7pm, you will be putting her to bed at the “new” 7pm, which is really 6pm. However, with a consistent bedtime routine and other good sleep habits, she will adjust within the week. This is a great option for families with early risers.

Alternatively, you can gradually adjust your child’s internal clock to the time change. Put her to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night over the next few nights. For example, if her bedtime is 7pm, put her to bed at 6:45pm Monday and Tuesday nights, 6:30pm Wednesday and Thursday, and 6:15 on Friday and Saturday. Naps and meal times will need to be adjusted in the 15-minute increments as well. This method is usually recommended for young babies and children with already early bedtimes and/or struggling with naps.

Regardless of what approach you opt for, exposing your child to morning sunlight (if you can find some!), focusing on good naps, a predictable and calming bedtime routine (without screen time), room darkening shades and/or white noise, and following your child’s sleepy cues will make the transition smoother all around.

Also remember that if your child was waking early due to another reason (nap deprivation, too long of a wakeful window between nap and bedtime, etc.), it’s likely that the early rising will return in a few weeks. If so, take a look at this earlier post.