Getting Your Kids on the New Time Change Schedule
The fall time change is upon us and while a difference of one hour may not sound like much, it can have a surprising impact on your child’s life. As we “fall back” this year, you might want to consider using a few simple techniques to assist your little one in aligning with the clock. This will help to make sure you all continue to get a good sleep at night.
It’s important to recognize that kids don’t adapt to changes in sleep hours as well as adults. They also struggle more greatly when they are deprived of the rest they usually receive. Changing even one hour in a routine can impact your kid’s appetite, attention span, and mood as a whole.
The main advantage to this time of the year is that we gain an hour as we “fall back”, instead of losing one when we “spring forward.” You won’t be dragging yourself – and your kids – out of bed with one less hour of sleep. However, if your kids are already on a sleep schedule, this can mean you have energy-filled children ready to get up and face the world an hour before your alarm goes off in the morning. So much for that bonus hour!
If you want to help to ease your children into a new schedule along with the time change, consider the following helpful tips from Parents magazine:
Make the changes gradually – Instead of turning the clock ahead by an hour and expecting your child to align with it right away, gradually shift your child’s bedtime and waking time in advance. Give the process at least four nights, if not more. Push bedtime and waking time ahead by fifteen minutes each night until it matches where it should be on the clock once the time change actually happens.
For example, if your child usually goes to bed at 8pm, advance that to 8:15pm on the first night, 8:30pm on the second night, and so on. Don’t forget to do the same thing for the child’s waking time in the morning. Since the time change, itself, happens over a weekend, the latest bedtime/waking time will be on days off, which means as little interruption as possible to your weekday schedule.
- Use light to your advantage – Light is one of the most important signals to your waking and sleeping cycle. The same goes for your children. When light is dim, melatonin (a natural hormone) is produced, encouraging sleepiness and preparation for rest overnight. Help your child to adapt to the time change by altering the rhythm of his or her light exposure. As you gradually alter bedtime and waking time, dim lights slightly later at night and turn them on earlier in the morning.
- Adhere to a set routine – The more closely you stick to a routine, the better your child will adapt to the time change. This isn’t just a matter of set bedtime and waking time – though that is a large part of it. It has to do with the entire process of heading to bed and waking up.
- Ahead of going to bed, go through the same process of dimming lights, brushing teeth, washing up, putting on pajamas, or reading a bedtime story. Keep the activities in a similar pattern and at similar times. This will help to create triggers in your child’s mind for winding down and becoming restful and ready for sleep. In the morning, go through the same routine of opening the blinds, getting up, washing up and getting dressed, having breakfast, and so on. This way, your child’s brain will recognize the triggers for becoming energized and active.
- Be understanding – even when you’ve done everything right, the time change can be challenging for your child. Try to be patient and sympathetic if he or she is moodier than usual. This will be a short-term issue and your support will help your kid to adjust more comfortably.
Don’t forget to follow these same habits for yourself, too. Making sure that you alter your own sleep schedule and routine will help you to be well rested and more sympathetic to your child throughout the adjustment. When you sleep well at night, it will help you to keep your calm, even if you’re facing extra tantrums for a few days.