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Daylight Savings: Time to Reset Your Child’s Internal Clock

Budding flowers and trees, the sound of birds singing, and that fresh, earthy smell are all telltale signs of spring. An unofficial marker for the long-awaited season is the start of Daylight Savings Time, when most of North America gets set to ‘spring ahead,’ as we turn the clocks forward one hour. It may not seem like a significant change, but the loss of an hour’s sleep can wreak havoc on the whole family, especially if you’re a parent of young kids.

My daughter is an early riser. Most often, she’s ready to start her day by 6:30 a.m., which means when we change our clocks, she’ll lose a full hour of sleep. If you’re already drumming up a million ways to quickly condition your child to reset his or her internal clock, Daylight Saving begins on March 12 – but there’s still time to help ease your child into the time change.

Set your child’s bedtime routine a little earlier each night leading up to the time change. Try starting 15 minutes earlier for four days before turning the clocks forward. If you’re thinking of trying to tire your kid out in the hopes he or she will sleep in, it could have reverse effects. Experts say overtired children often take longer to settle and fall asleep.

Prep the room. The days are getting longer, which means the sun could still be shining by the time your little one goes down for the night. Use a blackout shade or blanket to cover bright spots where the sun may be peaking through the window and into your child’s room.

Routine is key. Stick to your child’s regular meal and nap times. If your family typically turns in early, continue to do so. Try and ease into the time change as smoothly as possible and be patient.

Introduce quiet activities for stubborn early risers. You can try turning on a soothing crib activity toy, or for older children, offering a picture book to look at in bed for a little while.

No caffeine after dinner. You aren’t exactly about to offer up a bold cup of java, but things like chocolate cake and chocolate milk have the potential to give your child a little unnecessary jolt before bedtime.

Give everyone in your home a few days for internal clocks to change. Even adults can feel a little sluggish.

Allow your child extra time to adjust to the new time.  A young child’s internal clock doesn’t reset as easily as it does in older children or adults.

Help older children adjust by discussing the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Depending on your style, you can hold a family meeting or have a one-on-one chat before bedtime. Explain why sleep is important, and how happy your family is when everyone is well-rested.

Everyone is different. Some people can easily transition into the time change, but much like jet lag, the change in time can affect your child’s circadian rhythm.  

A calming bath can help settle children before bed. You can also opt for soothing music or a white noise machine to help your child relax.

Don’t allow screen time too close to bedtime. The key is to wind down evening activities so by taking away stimulation like TV or video games, experts believe it will better settle children, especially when we ‘spring ahead’ or ‘fall back.’

Daylight Saving boasts a lot of benefits: evening play dates at the park, sunny backyard barbecues and the unofficial start of balmy weather, so make sure you have the energy to enjoy them.

Here’s to a healthy, happy Spring!