By: Rebekah Thomson, Pediatric Sleep Coach
Today’s post will come as good news to many of us who are ready for spring and/or fed up with our children’s early rising. Daylight saving time starts next weekend. At 2:00am on Sunday, March 13th, we will turn our clocks ahead one hour. The start of daylight saving time assures us that spring is indeed on the way, even if it is still 28 degrees outside.
What does this mean for our children’s sleep? Generally speaking, it’s a good thing. Children who were waking up at 5:30am will now be waking at 6:30am, a far more civilized hour. However, those with late sleepers, will need to rouse their child so they don’t sleep the morning away.
What should we do in anticipation of the time changes? We’ve got two options. One is to do absolutely nothing. Just go with it. On Saturday night, put your child to bed at the usual time and allow her to wake at her usual time (though of course, the clock will read an hour later – i.e. 7am instead of the usual 6am). For the next few days, naps and bedtime may all feel a bit too early. For example, if your child’s bedtime is 7pm, you will be putting her to bed at the “new” 7pm (which will feel like 6pm). However, with a consistent bedtime routine and other good sleep habits, she will adjust within the week. This is a great option for families with early risers.
Alternatively, you can transition your child more gradually to her new (earlier) bedtime. For the few nights following the time change, rather than putting her to bed at 7pm (which will feel like 6pm), split the difference and make her bedtime 7:30pm. Then shift bedtime back to 7pm. Naps and meal times will need to be adjusted as well. This method is usually recommended for young babies and children with already early bedtimes and/or struggling with naps.
Regardless of what approach you opt for, exposing your child to morning sunlight (if you can find some!), focusing on good naps, a predictable and calming bedtime routine (without screen time), room darkening shades if needed, and following your child’s sleepy cues will make the transition smoother all around.
Also remember that if your child was waking early due to another reason (nap deprivation, too long of a wakeful window between nap and bedtime, etc.), it’s likely that the early rising will return in a few weeks. If so, take a look at this piece I wrote for Cape Cod Mommies a while back. Hopefully it will help you identify and tackle the root cause.
Sweet dreams and happy (almost) spring,
Cape Cod Moms