Reducing the 'Pain' of Springing Forward to Daylight Savings Time

Daylight savings time

On Sunday, March 13 we spring forward one hour.   It is the perfect springboard into power struggles over bedtime and wake up routines because our body clock does not switch as quickly as the clock on our phone.  When you put your child to bed at 7:00 that night, his body will say “this was 6:00 yesterday.  I’m not ready for sleep.”  The requests for water, an opportunity to toilet, and the tussle over getting in and out of bed will begin.   

Monday morning when it is time to wake up he will be dead to the world because his body clock will still be telling him he has a full hour before it is time to wake.  Dragging him out of bed will provide the “spark” for a morning meltdown – not the way you want to start your day.   So how do you reduce the chaos caused by springing into daylight savings time?  Here are five steps to take.

  1. Begin tomorrow, March 3rd.  It can take a minimum of one week for the body clock to adjust to a one hour time shift.   For many children the adjustment actually requires closer to three weeks.   The body clock is set by exposure to morning light and regular wake, sleep and meal times.  You can help your entire family adjust by beginning to move nap, bed and wake times (and if possible mealtimes) in fifteen minute increments so that the shift is not so abrupt.  Begin with wake time.  If your child wakes at 7:00 AM wake him Thursday morning at 6:45 AM.  Wait until Friday, March 4th to move nap and sleep times fifteen minutes earlier.  Once you do, do not let your child nap fifteen minutes longer so if he was napping 12-2:00 PM he is now napping 11:45-1:45 PM.  Wake him if needed.  If bedtime was 8:00 PM it is now 7:45 PM. 
  2. Saturday, March 5 shift meals, naps, sleep and wake time another fifteen minutes earlier.  Make outside morning play time a priority.  Even if it is cold where you live and you have to bundle up – get outside.  Our body clock is set by exposure to light.  Now his wake time is 6:30 AM.  His nap 11:30 AM and his sleep time 7:30 PM. 
  3. Wednesday, March 9 shift bed, nap and meal times another fifteen minutes earlier.  Wake time is now 6:15 AM, naptime is 11:15 AM and sleep time is 7:15 PM.  
  4. Sunday, March 13 complete the shift.  On this day we all will have officially sprung ahead one hour and shifted our clocks accordingly, as a result wake time is back to 7:00 AM according to the clock on the wall.  Nap is 12:00 noon and sleep time is 7:00 PM – just as it was before.   Thanks to your earlier efforts moving the times in fifteen minute increments however, instead of losing an entire hour of sleep your child’s body will only have to adjust by fifteen minutes.  The sleep deprivation that can fuel those power struggles will be drastically reduced as a result.
  5. Monday, March 14 plan to allow your family more time to get out of the house.  Even with the proactive steps you have taken a few extra hugs and a little more help may be needed.  Do NOT schedule yourself into any early morning commitments.  You’ll be dragging a bit too.  Expect in the next few weeks a few more meltdowns as your child’s body clock catches up with the clock on the wall.  Soon however, everyone will be back in sync. 

For more information on easing the time change and developing healthy sleep routines for your family check out, Sleepless in America:  Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?  

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