Springtime, my most favourite time of the year! Grass starts growing, windows get opened, birds are chirping, the sun stays out longer, calves are born, our gravel roads turn into mud pits, and car washes make millions! It’s a beautiful sign that we are done with the long cold winters we experience in Northern Alberta, and warm weather is imminent. Parent’s of early risers love this time of year, at least for a week or so as those pesky 5 am wakes up turn into 6 am wakeups.
Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday, March 10 @ 3 am, where we will turn our clocks ahead one hour. This time change is the least disruptive of the two time changes. Imagine being used to going to sleep at 7 pm, and now it’s been moved to what your body feels is 6 pm (I would say “um, yes please!” but my children definitely have a different answer than I do). This change might make you feel a bit off as we are making changes to your body’s natural sleep rhythms, so expect the same to happen to your child.
You have a few options to get your child to adjust to this time change.
Option 1- Ease into it, baby! If your child is more sensitive to sleep (or younger than 8 months) you will want to make some changes leading up to the day of. I suggest starting shifting your child’s schedule earlier by 15 minutes every 2-3 days. So if your child normally wakes at 7 am, wake her at 6:45 am. If her first nap is at 9am, it will then be occurring at 8:45 and so on. Continue adjusting her schedule until the day of the time change where you will now be on par.
Option 2- Do nothing in advance and go with the flow (and cross your fingers!). If your child isn’t a total crank when a nap is missed or bedtime is a little later than usual, you shouldn’t have as much of a hard time adjusting. If you are going to go this route, simply change the clock ahead an hour after your little one is in bed and proceed as normally the following morning. The only thing I will caution about this method is that children who have very strong internal clocks may not be able to fall asleep at nighttime until their usual bedtime. It may take the child a couple weeks to adjust to bedtime.
Whichever of the 2 methods you choose, there are some things you can do to make the time change a little smoother for all involved. Sleep is regulated by our circadian rhythms, which in turn is regulated by light and darkness. As the days get longer and the evenings stay lighter, the sun will rise earlier and be setting later meaning more daylight during sleeping hours. It’s important to be making sure you are making your child’s room as dark as possible. I highly recommend these black out blinds as a great long term solution. Keeping your child’s room dark for sleep time will also help eliminate those early morning wake ups. When your child wakes in the morning, ensure you are exposing them to light (preferably natural). If you can take your child outside for 30 minutes in the morning- that’s fantastic and will help immensely. If it’s too cold, then just open the window and let in some natural sun light. Keeping the same routine and order in your child’s life during this time change will help considerably. I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again, children NEED routine in their lives. It will help them get through adjustments whether it be time changes & traveling, nap transitions and even family/life changes.
Unfortunately, most children will not adjust overnight, and some children can take up to 2 weeks to adjust. Most importantly, be flexible, patient, consistent and get outside and enjoy that sunshine!
If you’re interested in what a healthy sleep schedule looks like, feel free to contact me! My goal is to provide parents with the tools for the entire household to get the healthy, restorative sleep they need!