Next Sunday, November 2nd at 2 a.m. we will turn our clocks back once again as Daylight Savings Time (DST) comes to an end. If you are like so many parents of young children out there the anticipation of the time change brings with it fear and confusion. So many of us are unsure how to handle the change and worry that it will wreak havoc on our little one’s sleep schedules. While Daylight Savings is inevitable there are some things you can do to minimize the impact on your family:
1) Know your child(ren). If you have a child with an easy going temperament who adapts easily to change you can simply do nothing. On Sunday you will go about your normal routine according to the clock and not change a thing. You can expect a very mild disruption in routine for these children consisting of an early wake time for a day or two if any at all. If you have a child who is more sensitive to changes in schedule or routine you may want to take action to avoid any major issues.
2) For those of you in the second camp, plan to shift your child’s schedule back the week leading up to the change. Beginning on Monday the 27th shift everything in your day back by 15 minutes- wake time, breakfast, snack, nap times, bedtimes etc. On Wednesday, shift it another 15 minutes and on Friday another 15 minutes. Finally, when you wake on Sunday follow the clock and stick to your routine. This gradual approach will help you ease into your new schedule and hopefully make any disruptions short lived.
3) Sleep is largely governed by our circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin which is strongly influenced by light and darkness. Because of this you may find it helpful to keep your home darker longer in the morning to help counteract that early waking that often comes as a result of DST and retrain the brain to the new wake time. In turn, it also helps to keep your home lighter later in the evening to help stave off sleep inducing melatonin for that extra hour even though it is dark outside. Finally, getting outdoors in the sunlight during the day and late afternoon will help the brain regulate its melatonin production and adapt accordingly to the new time.
4) Use DST as a reminder to consider your child’s sleep environment- it should be dark, cool, quiet and free of distractions. I recommend the use of room darkening shades and white noise especially for those little ones still learning healthy sleep habits.
5) Be consistent and be patient! Try to stick with your routine and new schedule closely in the week or 2 following DST and your little one should fall right back in line. This is also a great time to evaluate your sleep hygiene as a family and make sure you are all getting the sleep you need.
Happy Fall and sweet dreams…