As parents, we all know how sensitive our kids are to a change in their routine. Daylight Saving Time (DST), which is observed throughout most of the United States and 70 percent of countries across the world, is one change that can be particularly disruptive. The time to “fall back” this year is Sunday, November 3rd, when clocks will change at 2:00 a.m back to 1:00 a.m.
The DST change has been linked to many health and safety concerns.
The “spring forward” clock change each March is generally more notorious for causing problems. It’s been linked to multiple health issues, including slower reaction times, attention lapses, and sleep deprivation that can last several days after the change in adolescents. These symptoms can lead to academic and mood problems, as well as safety concerns, especially for young drivers.
However, the fall change also has its share of challenges. Young children are especially prone to waking early because of the extra hour of sleep they snuck in overnight, which causes obvious problems for parents—especially if they’re already working on sleep challenges with their child. Studies have shown an increase in depression diagnoses and cluster headaches for the month following the fall change, as well.
If you’re like most parents—trying to get your family’s sleep back on track while your kids sleep and wake according to the old time schedule—these survival tips can help.
Move your young child’s bedtime.
If your child sleeps from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. now, that will translate to 7:00 to 5:00 after the change. Most of us don’t have the flexibility in our schedules to just switch to the new time, so we need to transition our kids to an 8:00 to 6:00 schedule under the “new” clock.
Making a gradual shift in bedtime can ease the transition. Several days before the time change, begin moving your child’s bedtime later by 15 to 30 minute increments. Be sure to push wake-up times later too, so they still get a full night’s sleep. By doing this you can get them closer to what their actual bedtime will be once the time changes.
Keep your teen’s bedtime the same.
The fall time change can actually help our teens since they tend to want to sleep later to begin with. If they are used to falling asleep at 11:00 p.m. but can now easily fall asleep at 10:00 (their old 11:00 p.m.) they will get an extra hour of sleep each night. If that seems like a hard sell for your teen, at least take comfort knowing they’ll catch up on one hour of sleep on Sunday morning.
Put a clock in your child’s room.
Show them the time that they get out of bed, or even display an example of that time next to their clock so they can see when the clock and example match. That way they know when their clock matches your example it’s time to get up. Give them the tools they need to not come in your room at 5:00 the next morning!
Maintain a quality sleep environment.
Use white noise machines or blackout curtains to keep bedrooms dark and quiet during the hours your child should be sleeping. Make a fun, energetic game of waking up in the morning when kids wake up at the appropriate time. That helps avoid setting any “early waking” habits that you don’t want to continue—though note your little one might still wake early for a week or so, particularly if their bedtimes weren’t adjusted for a few days before the change, or if they’re very sensitive to schedule disruptions.
Keep up your routines.
Take extra care during the week after a time change to keep up nap times and have meals at your regularly scheduled time. Keeping things on track helps everyone to get their footing after the change.
The fall time change tends to be more difficult on young ones while the spring change is more difficult on teens. Watch for signs that your kids are struggling like zoning out, being extra emotional or more forgetful, and give them the break they may need.