So, here we are again! Daylight Savings Time (DST), for many of us, is happening this Sunday, March 12th and clocks will be moving forward by one hour (think, “Spring Ahead”). Even if you’re like me and don’t really get why we still have this long standing tradition of clock changes twice a year, it’s surely a sign of spring when it stays lighter a little bit longer in the evenings.
The unfortunate side to the clock changes means circadian rhythms (our internal body clocks) get thrown off a bit and can sometimes take a few days to get back to feeling normal. As adults, we don’t usually have to think about this too much and we can just go with the flow. However, for some babies and children, it can throw things off a bit more. And by “things” I mean their precious, precious SLEEP!
Here are two ways you can go about helping your child get through DST this year:
If you have a newborn or very young baby (under 4 months of age), their sleep and circadian rhythms are a bit all over the place anyway, so keeping them as well rested as possible and going with the flow is probably all you need to do. If your child is older than this and seems pretty easy going with sleep, you can also likely get away without much planning and move into the new time on Sunday when it comes to naps and bedtime.
2.Take a more gradual approach.
If your child is more of a sensitive sleeper, or if you want to play it safe, you can progressively move naps/bedtime earlier by 15 minutes starting on Thursday. So, if your child usually goes to bed at 7pm, this Thursday you’ll aim to put them down at 6:45pm, on Friday at 6:30pm, and on Saturday at 6:15pm. So each day the whole schedule (naps and meals count too) gets moved ahead by 15 minutes, so waking up early on Sunday can feel more natural.
Regardless of your approach, you may still want to help adjust your child’s own body clock and wake them closer to their usual time if they don’t wake on their own. Yes, I said WAKE THEM UP, maybe 30mins-1hr earlier. For example, if your child usually wakes at 7am, wake them somewhere between 7-7:30am new time on Sunday. This way they will be more likely to take their naps and get to bed at their usual time on Sunday. Another way to help is to use light. Early morning exposure to sunlight or artificial light will also help to reset their body clocks.
Just remember that it can still take a day or two for all of us to feel adjusted to the new time, so take care, rest up, and get outside J
Ashley Cooley is a Health Promotion Specialist, Childbirth Educator, and Child Sleep Consultant with Citadel Sleep Consulting. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with her husband and two girls ages 2 and 4. She’s passionate about sharing her real life experiences and certified knowledge to help families sleep better.