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Surviving the start of Daylight Savings Time

Help your child adjust to "spring forward" with minimal sleep loss for everyone

daylight savings time, sleep schedule, bedtime routines,

Daylight Saving Time is coming! On Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. the Hudson Valley will turn our clocks ahead one hour.

In the wee hours of spring each year you may notice that it is getting lighter a bit earlier and inwardly shout “hooray!” I know that I am ready to put away the snow shovel and gloves and spot some spring bulbs coming up in the garden!

Here are some tips from sleep expert Kim West, The Sleep Lady, that you can implement now to help you and your child make a smooth transition as we “spring forward.” 

There are two options to help your children (and you) transition for Daylight Saving Time: you can keep the status quo, or you can do a gradual schedule migration.

READ MORE: Pediatrician's tips on bedtime routines

Do nothing:

If your child is the type who is up before the crack of dawn, you should use this approach. Follow your daily routine according to the new time on the clock, but in reality, everything will be pushed ahead one hour because of the time change.

• The Saturday before the time change, make sure that you adjust your clocks ahead one hour before you head to bed for the night.

• On Sunday, go ahead with your normal routine. If you have an early-rising child, he should wake up at a more acceptable hour!

• Keep all of your baby’s meals and naps at their normal times according to the new time.

• Make sure your baby goes to bed at night at their regular time, according to the time change.

If you choose to use this method, expect that it will take your bodies about a week to adjust. This method is especially effective for children over 2 years old.

Split the difference:

For some children (especially young babies), making the one-hour change will be overwhelming. Maybe they already have an early bedtime or they are not napping well. You know your child and may even dread this next week! In this case, use modified approach that will bridge the gap and minimize a struggle at bedtime.

This method pushes the bedtime back only half an hour at a time, giving the child some time to catch up.

• About a week before the time change, begin putting your child to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier, moving the time back every few days until you reach a full hour (a week ahead usually works best). So, if your child has a 7 p.m. bedtime, you want to begin with bedtime at 6:40 p.m., then 6:20 p.m., then 6 p.m.

• Be as consistent as possible with your baby’s food and sleep schedule. This means that you need to shift all meals, snacks, and naps a half hour earlier as well. Watch the clock to stay on the new schedule of 30 minutes earlier. Don’t forget to wake your child a bit earlier to help with this transition schedule!

• After about a week, your child should be back at their regular bedtime.

READ MORE: Can better health equal better grades?

• Adjust all meals, snacks, and naps to fit the “new” schedule on the same day that you shift to your child’s new, fully-adjusted bedtime.

The goal is to get back to your child’s normal bedtime and daily routine. It may take as long as a week, though. This is because your child’s inner clock is fighting to stay on Standard Time.

Here are a few other helpful tips to help you navigate through the time transition – regardless of which method you choose:

• Expose your child to bright sunlight in the mornings during this transition. Exposure to natural light first thing in the morning will help to reset their internal clock a bit faster.

• If you do not already have them, consider installing room-darkening shades.

• Make naps even more of a priority throughout the next week. Good naps lead to good nighttime sleep.

• Be flexible. While I encourage you to watch the clock and be consistent, you will still need to be aware of your child’s sleepy cues and make this transition slowly. Some children will need a few weeks to fully adjust, so listen to your parenting instincts.

• At least 30 minutes before bed, make sure that there are no bright lights or screens, as these interfere with melatonin production and will cause bigger bedtime struggles.

READ MORE: 6 steps to bedtime bliss

Daylight Savings Time tips for grownups:

• On Friday go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual.

• On Saturday try to go to bed 45 minutes earlier than your usual bedtime

• Eliminate all caffeine after 1:30 p.m. this week in order to make it easier to go to bed earlier.

• If possible, also avoid alcohol this weekend, which negatively affects sleep.