Originally published by Audrey Jarrett, 3/7/2018
“Springing forward” in anticipation for those long summer nights might sound exciting, but setting the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time and losing an hour of sleep can make anyone cranky, especially children. Suddenly implementing an earlier bedtime may make it much harder to fall asleep, which can leave a person feeling tired and groggy the next morning or even several days to follow.
According to a study from the Better Sleep Council, 29% of all parents reported they disliked this spring time change. If you were already sleep deprived and feeling drained, and now the kids are exhausted and increasingly uncooperative; nobody wins. Prepping yourself and your kiddos for this inevitable change is the best way to curb those negative effects. These four tips can help everyone in the house make a smooth transition:
1. Gradually shift your routine
Who doesn’t thrive on a routine? The benefits are impressive: it helps children feel safe and secure by knowing what to expect, and it can reduce the time parents spend giving directions (or feeling like a disorganized hot mess.) Since it can take one or more days to adapt to losing just one hour of sleep, slowly making adjustments several days ahead of time can help everyone get back into their regular pattern of sleep after the change takes effect. In the four days leading up to the time change, set bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day so the change happens slowly and your body has a chance to play catch up.
2. Dim the lights
Consider how light cues the body for sleep. When we are awake during the day, light helps overpower the part of our brain that tells us it’s time to fall asleep. During the evening when we are exposed to darkness, our body understands it’s time to wind down. Gaining an extra hour of light can affect our ability to do that.
I have distinct memories of bedtime as a child - lying in bed wondering how the heck I was supposed to fall asleep with the bright sun coming through my window. Room darkening shades in bedrooms can trick our bodies into thinking it’s time for bed. In the morning, opening them encourages us to wake up.
Watching electronics before bed can also delay our ability to fall asleep due to the bright lights and mental activity. Try turning off the tablets and TVs at least 30-minutes to an hour before bedtime, and pick up a book to wind down with instead.
3. Stay tuned in
Despite our best efforts to prepare, sometimes it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Some children are going to struggle with the time change much more so than others. When kids don’t get the rest they need, they are more likely to lash out and display negative behaviors that are less than fun to manage. Pay close attention to them during this time. Take notice of any behavior changes and try to be as supportive and patient as possible until they get back on track.
Fun activities are a great way to help children burn some energy and encourage restfulness later in the day. If your kids seem restless and you’re looking for more ways to keep them engaged during their waking hours, check out 25 Spring Activities for Families on a Budget, or 50 family activities that don’t involve screens.
4. Get some extra R&R:
Just like children, when I don’t get the rest or relaxation that I need, I start to feel myself getting more easily frustrated and am less likely to effectively cope with the world around me. Adults can have tantrums too! It becomes more difficult to tackle day to day tasks, let alone challenging parenting situations. It’s important to practice self-care regularly to tackle the responsibility of parenting, especially when your sweet offspring wake up sounding more like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. You might try a warm bubble bath or hitting the gym. Also, ease up on the caffeine - it may keep you up tossing and turning at night.
If all else fails, just take some deep breaths and remind yourself that nothing lasts forever-certainly not the effects of Daylight Savings Time. This too shall pass.