Every March in the majority of the United States, parents dread springing the clocks forward. While the long term benefits of having more daylight hours in the evening to enjoy outdoors outweigh the short term loses – we still cringe at the anticipation of how our children will react to the change in their sleep schedule.
Children of all ages benefit from having a scheduled bed time and when that is disrupted we can experience our children being extra cranky, emotional, uncooperative, and even more aggressive when we change their sleep patterns. When a child skips an afternoon nap, you can simply put them to bed early that night and have them wake up at their usual time. With DST, it feels like you are completely losing an hour and the week following the time change can be difficult to cope with. Families with a stay-at-home parent tend to have more leniency with younger children as they can allow them to sleep in but this affects our school-aged children too.
Here are some tips to get ahead of the madness.
• Slowly move your child’s bedtime up 15 minutes each night before March 10th. If you have older children or if going to bed early isn’t possible, try gradually waking them up 15 minutes earlier for the mornings leading up to the start of DST.
• Adjusting the light in your home. Turning down the lights and creating a dark environment in the bedroom with blackout curtains help children wind down for bedtime and equally opening the curtains and turning on lights in the morning helps wake up their minds for the day.
• Make sure you keep your current bedtime routine. Routines are critical and as long as you can stick to it during the days surrounding DST, your little ones will be less likely to notice the change in time.
• Make sure everyone gets enough sleep leading up to DST. If you are already tired and lacking on sleep when you “lose” an hour, the difficulties of catching up will last longer.
• Be patient and allow yourself and your children some grace. The days following the time change can be difficult and bring up a lot of big emotions, so remember to have a little more patience.