Don’t worry, it’s the likeable time change—the one that we actually get to go back in time (without a TARDIS or a DeLorean). It’s not its wicked, sleep stealing, ugly step-sister that always takes us by surprise (even though it shouldn’t!) in the spring. Before heading to bed this Saturday, put your clocks back one hour. Or at least adjust the old-fashioned ones that refuse to take care of it themselves.
If you live a child-free existence, the end of daylight savings time is an occasion to be celebrated. “Falling back” this coming weekend means one extra hour dedicated to the guilty pleasure of your choice. But if your present contains mini people, the end of daylight savings time is one more obstacle to navigate cautiously.
Fortunately, the time change doesn’t have to be a significant obstacle. If your little generally has good sleep habits and has shown their ability to go with the flow, don’t be too concerned. You may not have to do anything ahead of the time change. Give them a few days, and they’ll adjust.
For those of us with beasts who have proven themselves to be more sensitive in terms of scheduling and sleep, here’s a few suggestions to make it easy on them (aka: easy on you).
Start adjusting TODAY. For school-aged kidlets, shift their waking, breakfast, dinner and bedtimes to be 10 minutes later each day. For children who are younger than school age, consider shifting their entire schedule (wake, eat, nap and bedtimes). Repeat and increase this incremental shift until Saturday. By the time Sunday rolls around, their bodies are fully prepared for the adjustment.
You know how you change the batteries in your smoke detectors at this time of year? You might also want to start adding supplemental vitamin D back into your daily routine now. The amount the kids will be getting naturally drops dramatically once they stop spending time outdoors in t-shirts and shorts.
Stay on Schedule
Every aspect of the day gives our children an opportunity to know what time it is. Mealtimes, playtimes, along with wake and bedtimes all offer cues to help our children be prepared and receptive for what’s coming next. Be mindful and deliberate with the time adjustment as it affects ALL of your daily activities, not just sleep. Diligently follow your usual routines on the adjusted schedule. Try the Gro-Clock to help keep littles on their sleep-wake schedule.
On the day of and days following the time change, you may notice that a 7AM wake time turns into a 6AM wake time. Be prepared to compensate with an earlier bedtime (and possibly earlier nap times for the wee ones) to prevent any over tiredness from setting in.
Let There Be Light
The onset of fall means cooler, shorter days with fewer hours of sunlight. In the mornings, you’re likely turning on the lights anyway. As your child is having their breakfast, ensure they are in a well-lit area. In the evenings, take the opportunity to turn down the lights about 30 minutes before bedtime. These adjustments are subtle, but will help to naturally regulate Circadian rhythms. If you need an extra boost of light at these times of year (or throughout the winter, try a light therapy lamp or a sunrise alarm clock.
Don’t Sweat It
Admit to yourself that it’s not always going to be perfect. Children take some time to adjust and adapt, just like you. Be patient and consistent while continuing to make sleep a priority for your family.