Daylight saving time ends this Sunday at 2:00 a.m., meaning that we “fall back” and set the clocks an hour earlier, so that we get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday night.
Or not, if we’re parents. Little kids don’t get the memo about the added hour, so they are usually up bright and early. Ugh — it feels like you’re the only one in the world in your bathrobe making breakfast at 5:30 a.m.
Babies and children have a natural affinity for schedule — they are pattern detectors whose bodies respond well when life has a predictable flow. It’s usually a great thing, but at this time of year, it works against you.
Here are some tips to help you and your little sleepers adjust to the time change as smoothly as possible:
1. Put your child to bed a the usual time on Saturday night.
2. With such highly attuned internal alarm clocks, it’s likely your child will greet you an hour early on Sunday. Get up with her — there’s not much you can do to eek out more sleep this morning.
3. Try as much as possible to stretch your little one towards her nap time (the one dictated by the clock, which will be an hour past the old one). Especially babies and toddlers might need activity and stimulation to make this happen — take a bath, or go to the park — whatever helps stretch to the clock-dictated nap times.
If your child isn’t napping anymore, go about your day and bedtime schedule according to the new time. It’s tempting to put your child to bed early that night because it’s darker out, but try if you can to follow the new clock.
Some moms and dads try inching naps and bedtime forward by 15 or 30 minutes a day. This is an option for babies who are highly sensitive to getting overtired, but for many it’s easier to make one shift in schedule, even though it can take a few days to a week to adjust.
4. Try not to let your child nap too long in the afternoon (for example, past 4:00 p.m), because this can contribute to the early morning waking.
5. Babies and little kids are highly attuned to the light — their circadian rhythms take it as a signal to start the day. If you want to encourage sleeping in, consider darker shades (or try garbage bags over the windows to test the idea. An elegant option, I know).
Researchers have been debating whether daylight saving time is bad for our health, but for now, we have to make the best of it and help our kids with the transition.
Image: flickr/fr atunes
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