Something I never really thought twice about until I had kids was daylight savings time. Sure, I would lose an hour of sleep, but that was really no big deal, and it was worth it for all that extra sunshine.
But kids truly do change everything—and daylight savings is no exception.
Bedtime is already a challenge for my little ones. When we spring forward and lose an hour, that becomes even more complicated. Thankfully, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks over the years to help make that transition go much smoother.
If these problems sound familiar, never fear. Read on, and I’ll share everything I’ve learned over the years.
Adjust Their Bedtime Preemptively
If you spring forward without having taken any steps yet, you’re going to be behind the eight ball. The best thing you can do is adjust your child’s bedtime in advance. You can do that in one of two ways: do it gradually over the week before, or all at once the previous night.
What works best for me is changing their bedtime gradually. Every other night over the course of the previous week, we go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Other moms I know send their kids to bed an hour earlier the night before.
For my kids, that’s too much—they’re just not tired that night if they haven’t already been adjusting. But for other children, that early preparation can cause confusion, and it’s easier to just do it all at once.
There is no hard and fast rule here. You know your kids, so you’ll know which is likely to work better.
Wear Them Out the Day Before
As all parents well know, “bedtime” and “sleep time” aren’t always the same. So here’s something that will help you get them to sleep earlier. The Sunday before the switch, we have the kids play all day.
Strenuous outdoor play should help tire the kids out and get them to fall asleep sooner after their head hits the pillow.
Focus On Circadian Rhythms
Humans don’t just fall asleep on a whim—our bodies get set on rhythms that help determine when we fall asleep and wake up. A lot of that has to do with light vs. darkness. We’re programmed to be awake when it’s light outside and asleep when it’s dark.
If your child’s adjusted bedtime falls when the sun is still out, make sure you have solid curtains in their room, and make sure those curtains are closed. Likewise, open them in the morning, so your little one feels the light when it’s time to wake up.
Another thing that can affect circadian rhythms is screens. Ensure your child isn’t on a screen for at least an hour prior to their new bedtime.
Focus On Bedtime, Not Wakeup Time
Even if they’re tired, their room is dark, and they haven’t been on a screen, it might be difficult for your child to fall asleep an hour earlier than they’ve been used to. That means they might have some trouble waking up on time at first (which, from my experience, becomes more of a challenge with age).
As long as they’re in bed at the time you want, count that as a win. In time, they’ll start dozing off sooner and waking up earlier.
If you have an infant, this is especially important. This video explains how to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule for Daylight Savings:
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is already basically impossible with a newborn, and Daylight Savings does not help! Make sure you are setting yourself up for success with a solid schedule and a bedroom that is conducive to sleep (a soothing night light goes a long way).
Maintain the Rest of Your Schedule
Sleep is not the only thing that informs your child’s natural rhythms. It’s important to adjust and maintain the rest of your schedule as well. Eat an hour earlier, do homework an hour earlier, and so on. It might not seem like the time your child eats lunch would affect the time they fall asleep, but it’s all a part of smoothing out their adjustment period.
Clear Your Schedule for the Next Day
A big part of a successful transition to daylight savings is setting your family up for success. The one thing you don’t want to do is set up a super busy day starting the morning after daylight savings. As we just discussed, your child is probably going to have a hard time starting their day, even if they were successful in adjusting their bedtime in advance. If possible, give everybody some downtime to help relax and adjust the following morning.
The fact is, adjusting to daylight savings may be a challenge for some children, even if you do everything right. They’re still probably going to oversleep and be thrown off by the change in their biorhythms.
That means as the parent, you have to be patient—both with your child on the first day, and in waiting for them to adjust. As long as you take the steps above, they’ll get right back on schedule sooner than later, even if it doesn’t happen right away.