Tick tock it’s time to change the clock and on Sunday, November 6th we set our clocks back and gain an hour of sleep. Sounds blissful, or at least it used to be, before kids entered the picture. Our children have a way of turning that extra hour of sleep we’re supposed to get into an extra hour of pretending you don’t hear the kids screaming for you bright and early in the morning. This time of year parents begin to worry about how it will affect their family’s sleep routine and wonder if their child will ever adjust to the new time.
I’m here to tell you that, with both the spring and fall time changes, our body clocks will adjust on their own, however, we may have to help our kids adjust a little bit.
If you happen to have a child that isn’t super sensitive when it comes to sleeping (lucky you!) then you may be able to just switch over to the new times and wait for them to adapt. This is definitely the easiest approach that I recommend to families. Consistency is the key here, and be aware that it may take them a week or two to adjust, but they will.
If your kids are more sensitive when it comes to routine, another approach is to begin a gradual shift in their schedule. Starting a few days before the time change shift your child’s bedtime and wake time 15 minutes later than usual. Remember: when the clocks change backwards, their 7pm bedtime will actually be an 8pm bedtime according to their body clock, so shifting everything later prior to the change will help reset their internal rhythms making it an easier transition come Sunday night. Continue to shift bedtime by 15 minutes each day until you reach the time when bedtime will be with the time change (1 hour = 4 nights of 15 minute increments). You may want to go as far as shifting their entire routine throughout the day and make naps and mealtimes slightly later as well, if you think it will help your child adjust.
It is important to understand that these time changes don’t only affect our children; they can also be a tough adjustment for adults! Where we go wrong with the fall change is that we use the thought of an “extra hour” as an excuse to stay up later and figure we will simply sleep in in the morning. The best route to take is to stick to your same routine. To help adjust your own body clock go to bed at the same time each night (even though it will be darker earlier) and wake up at the same time in the morning. By sticking to your routine, it shouldn’t take longer than a week for you to adapt.
How else can you help your family adjust to the new time? Set up each bedroom for sleep success.
- Install black out blinds or shades to keep bedrooms nice and dark. This will help release our natural sleep hormone melatonin and prepare our bodies for sleep.
- Use a white noise machine to drown out external noises, making it easier for us to stay in a deep restorative sleep.
- For our toddlers and preschoolers use a toddler clock like the Gro Clock to visually cue our child when it’s time to stay in bed and when they are able to leave their rooms.
While children may not complain of being tired during this time change, they may get cranky that first week while their bodies wait to nap and eat. Remember my two favourite words: persistence and consistency! With a little of each, the whole family will get through the time change just fine.
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is Representative and Director for the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants (IACSC) and serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute. She and her husband, Mike, live in Burlington, Ontario with their 3 children (1+twins!) and when she’s not on route to the bus stop or tripping over fire trucks and tea sets, she and her global team are working with families to overcome their sleep challenges. You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Today’s Parent, Yummy Mummy Club, PBS Kids, and Canadian Living. Alanna strives in helping families and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and Good Night Sleep Site at www.goodnightsleepsite.com and you can join Alanna on the first Wednesday of every month at the Burlington location of Nestled by Snuggle Bugz for her FREE in-person sleep clinic from 10-11am.
We want to help make your sleep transitions as easy as possible, so we’re giving away two prize packs consisting of a Sleep Belt and a Cloud-B Musical Plushie to two lucky winners!
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