Ummm weren’t we JUST falling back? Time flies! Daylight savings time begins on March 10th in Canada and the US and it’s the time of year all of the parents of early risers look forward to….at least for a few days.
What to Do?
This time shift definitely has less of an impact on our children’s sleep than falling back in the Fall [although this time change is actually harder on our bodies since we are losing an hour of sleep]. If your child is already on a good sleep schedule, your first option is to not make any in-advance changes. For a child who sleeps 7:00pm-7:00am, their new wake-up time will be 8:00am (woop!) and there isn’t much of an impact here. Your bedtime will be shifted an hour later but the effects of the time change are only apparent for a few days, maybe a week tops.
For children who are already on a later schedule (think 8:30-8:30 or the like) the sleep-in will result in an even later wake-up and subsequently, an even later bedtime. What we can do in this case is split the difference of the wake-up time. Wake your child up 30 minutes early on the day of the time change, so as not to rob them of too much nightsleep, but also not to let them sleep in too much resulting in a way-too-late bedtime.
If you’re really keen on keeping your child on the same schedule, you can wake them 1 hour early on the day of the time change so as not to see any lasting effects from the time shift (however if your child has a very strong internal clock, you may find them still not able to fall asleep until their ‘usual’ bedtime). The key also during this time change is not to use too early of a bedtime. If on Sunday your child happens to have a really crappy day of sleep and you’d normally have them down for an early bedtime [say 5:30pm] keep in mind that this is now actually 4:30pm so you may be better off sneaking in another nap to avoid a total meltdown with a too-early bedtime.
If you are looking to take advantage of the time change for baby who is an early riser, there are a few important things to remember:
1) The time change doesn’t actually re-set a child’s internal clock, but it does make the child’s wake-up time by the clock later, so in order to make this stick we need to make sure there is ZERO light in the bedroom in the morning [and remember the sun is now coming up an hour earlier so it’s very likely there would be sun streaming in at this time if you don’t have the windows blacked out properly!]
2) Do not wake your child the day after DST [obviously!] and just follow your new schedule the next day, with naps now occurring one hour later than usual. LOTS of sunlight in the evening helps lock in that new schedule!
3) If on this new schedule your child is still sleeping the same amount of hours as before and you are confident that it’s enough sleep for them, you’re set! We did it! Hurray! But if you suspect your child is still not getting enough sleep [let’s say if before the time change they were sleeping 7:30-5:30 and now they are sleeping 8:30-6:30 which is a better morning wake-up time but perhaps not enough nighttime sleep, which can be evidenced if your child wakes crying in the morning] then now we try to shift things a bit earlier very slowly to see if we can boost that 10 hours to, say, 10.5 or 11 hours. We do this by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 3 days and watch how it affects morning wake-up time. So for example, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after the time change you try bedtime at 8:15pm. If wake-up time remains 6:30am then on Thursday, Friday, Saturday you try 8:00pm. If wake-up time remains then for the next 3 days you try 7:45pm. If at some point the wake-up time creeps earlier, you know you’ve pushed too far and you’ll want to go back to whatever bedtime was maintaining the 6:30am wake-up time.
This is an important time to make sure your child’s environment is conducive to sleep. It will gradually begin to get lighter and lighter in the evenings so that cave-like sleep space becomes even more important. As always, I highly recommend my Blackout EZ window covers as an awesome and affordable way to get baby’s room as dark as possible.
Happy Spring everyone!
Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting now in Kamloops, BC. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve – a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be a dream!