On Sunday, March 10th, we “spring forward” and turn the clocks ahead one hour. Parents of early risers can hardly wait – their early birds automatically start sleeping until 6 or 7 am!
For most of us, however, thinking about losing that precious hour of sleep isn’t cause for celebration – it’s an opportunity to worry about how the time change will disrupt our children’s sleep schedule.
Here’s how to make the transition as easy as possible:
- On Thursday, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual
- On Friday go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual
- On Saturday, go to bed 45 minutes early
- Avoid caffeine after 1 pm for the 4 days leading up to the change
For your child, choose one of the following methods:
- Go Cold Turkey: When your child wakes up on Sunday morning, switch to the new time right away. Switch all meals, activities, and naps to the new time as well. It may be challenging keeping your child up until the new bedtime, but most younger children can handle it if they nap well during the day. If they are fairly easy going, adjustment will be easy and painless.
- Work up to it: This approach is helpful for children that are more sensitive to being overtired. Use the same method that I recommend for adults above – start on Thursday and move bedtime 15 minutes later each day. You can take an even more gradual approach if you think your child is extra sensitive – start on Monday or Tuesday and push bedtime later by 5 or 10 minutes every day. At the new wake up time, turn the lights on and expose your child to outdoor, natural light to help reset their internal clock.
- Fix it afterwards: Wait until Sunday and adjust your child’s schedule in increments over the following week. This method is good for children that tend to get over-tired and are unable to handle a later bedtime without melting down. Most children will naturally adjust to the new time within a week. Again, make sure your child naps well as you work on changing the schedule – an overtired child will be less adaptable.
Alison Bevan, Sleep Specialist