Daylight Savings 2011: 5 Tips to Help the Family Spring Forward

Sleep tips for daylight savings 2011

Tips for springing forward

This Saturday night (technically 2 a.m. on Sunday) we set the clocks forward one hour for daylight saving time, meaning that we’ll lose an hour of sleep (nooo…) but gain an hour of evening light (yay!).  If the prospect of lingering afternoon sun makes you happy, you’re not alone; it’s a welcome change for many people.

Many of us roll through the shift with no troubles. But the truth is that our circadian rhythms are so powerful that even that one-hour move sends the brain confusing signals. It can make things a little bumpy, especially if you’re already sleep-deprived before the change hits.

A little fine-tuning can help.  Here are 5 tips to help you, your kids, and their biological clocks make Sunday’s move gracefully:

1. Preparing can help: if you’re the advanced-planning type, see if you and the kids can go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for a few days before Saturday.  If this isn’t your style, just put everyone to bed a their normal bedtime on Saturday night. Lots of kids tend to go to sleep slightly later on Saturday night, but see if you can avoid that this weekend.

2. Darken the room: When Sunday morning comes, your little ones will sleep later (by the clock )— for example, if they usually get up at 6:30 they may wake up at 7:30 instead). If it works for you, go with it, but put up some light-blocking curtains or shades (you can even buy cheap, temporary blinds that stick to your windows at places like Home Depot).  Our kids’ biological clocks are exquisitely attuned to light, so blocking rays in the morning really helps them sleep in.

3. Sticking to the old schedule: If you need your child up at the normal time (for school or otherwise), wake her on Sunday according to the clock say at 6:30. It will feel like 5:30 to her and she’ll be sleepy, but her body will adjust. Put her down for naps that day and bedtime on Sunday night according to the new clock. That might mean going outside to help your drowsy kiddo stay awake.

4. Avoid the too-late naps: If the change makes anyone in the house lose sleep (you or the kids), try not to give into daytime dreamland. For kids that means staying clear of napping into the late afternoon. For you, that means power napping if you need it but trying not to linger in sleep too long (or chug afternoon coffee) so bedtime comes easily.

5. Embrace the sun: Since our body’s react strongly to light rays, it’s important to help set your body’s clock by getting morning sun once you’re up. Throw open the shades and eat breakfast with the kids on the patio if you can, or make sure the family gets out for a walk during the day.  When you send daytime light signals to the brain it actually helps the whole family sleep better at night.

Most importantly, as of Sunday night we can start to take those amazing evening strolls and enjoy another hour before sunset!

Image: flickr

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