Although Daylight Savings Time affects all of us, not just children, it can be particularly disadvantageous on children who are already very sensitive to schedule changes.
For some families, time changes can cause a few weeks of being back to restless nights, early wake ups or short naps. Fortunately, there are some strategies that may help you and your child manage the time changes. Just keep in mind however, that all children are different and it may take some longer to adjust than others.
When we “spring forward”, our clocks move up one hour (usually in March) so that we can enjoy more daylight in the Spring and Summer months. This is usually enjoyable to parents whose children are waking up fairly early in the morning since we gain an hour (6 am becomes 7 am). Many choose not to adjust schedules and to keep the later wake time as long as it will last. For some, keeping the same schedule is important (for example for work or daycare schedules). To keep the current schedule, you can try the following:
- Shift the entire schedule (naps and bedtime) by 10 minutes earlier each day for up to one week before the time change, or after the time change takes place to adjust the child back to their normal sleep times.
- If the child is not as sensitive to change, shift the schedule earlier by 15-20 minutes a few days prior to the time change.
When we “fall back”, our clocks are moved back one hour (usually in November) so that the daylight in the evening doesn’t feel like it’s actually the middle of the night. For those children who wake up fairly early in the morning (6 am for example), this would mean that they will now be up at 5 am, even though their biological clocks still consider it to be 6 am. This is usually the more stressful of the biannual time changes for parents, and also the one where a parent is more likely to adjust the schedule in advance to keep the current timings. To keep your current schedule, there are a few options to try depending on your child’s tolerance for change.
- Shift the entire schedule (naps and bedtime) by 10 minutes later each day for up to one week before the time change, or after the time change takes place to adjust the child back to their normal sleep times.
- If the child is not as sensitive to change, shift the schedule later by 15-20 minutes a few days prior to the time change.
- If you are shifting the schedule after the time change, you could be dealing with some early mornings for a few days until your child adjusts, and your child may go to bed earlier than normal.
- You can also do nothing and let your child adjust on their own – so if your child’s current bedtime is 7 pm, on the day of the change you can put them to bed at 7 pm (it will actually feel like 8 pm), and let them adjust on their own.
With all of these options, you could still be facing some early morning wake ups for a few days. Shifting the schedule in advance can potentially cause children who are sensitive to even minor schedule changes to be overtired, fussier, wake earlier, or possibly even have night wakings due to being overtired. Children and adults can both take up to 1-2 weeks to adjust to time changes. It’s best not to stress too much and set the expectation that you may have some early mornings and fussier children for a few days during time changes, and be patient! Give everyone some time to adjust including yourselves!
Here’s some news that will likely be music to the ears for many parents with young children. Ontario MPP’s unanimously passed Bill 214. This bill would remove the need for Daylight Savings Time in Ontario, and instead switch permanently to Standard Time.
“Ontario MPPs have voted to stop the biannual practice of changing clocks an hour ahead or an hour back, but it would be contingent on the Government of Quebec and New York State passing similar laws.”
Read the full news article here:
Until then, you can try the strategies above to help manage schedules during biannual time changes and remember to be patient with your children and yourselves!
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant, Founder of Gentle Dreams
Disclaimer: The information/advice provided in any form of communication by Gentle Dreams is not a substitute for medical advice. The advice is for informational purposes only and is intended for use with common sleep issues that are unrelated to medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or the health and welfare of your child.