Daylight Savings Time: Has Your Child Adjusted?

Baby with a funny faceIf your answer is no. You are not alone. For all the advice (including my own “Countdown to Daylight Savings Time”), many children struggle with sleep a week or two after the time change. Shifting your baby or toddler’s schedule by a mere 60 minutes, can lead to accrued sleep deprivation. And if sleep begets sleep, it makes sense that less sleep begets…well, less sleep. Here are five tips to help turn this around:  

  • Give it time: Some travelers adjust more quickly to changes in time zones, just as some children are quicker to adapt to Daylight Savings Time (DST). If your baby is still on rocky territory, be patient. Re-read reliable advice on the internet or better yet, talk to other moms about what helped them. Chances are you will learn something that works for your overtired child, too. 
  • Re-examine Bedtime: The biggest complaint about DST among my clients is that their child is now waking up for the day earlier, rather than later. This seems to defy logic, being our clocks have “sprung forward” (The previous 6:00 a.m. wake up time is now 7:00 a.m.) If this is true for your baby or toddler, bedtime might be the culprit. After DST, it is lighter, for longer, in the evenings. This can delay the release of Melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone. This can make it hard for your child to fall asleep, causing her to become over-tired or “wired”. Over tired children tend to nap less, wake up more overnight and earlier in the morning. Tip #3 can nip all this in the bud by accelerating the production of Melatonin earlier in the evening.
  • Create a Cocoon. If you aren’t using black out shades in your child’s nursery, now is the time. Cutting off the evening light can go a long way to encouraging your child’s body to produce more Melatonin. A dark room also cuts out visual stimulation that can interfere with sleeping. Remember, babies over the age of approximately 14 weeks are fascinated by everything. This includes “interesting” sounds like dogs barking or children playing outside. So add a continuous white sound machine to your DST arsenal. The goal of bedtime/nap should always be to “bore your child to sleep”. This is never truer during the switch to DST. 
  • Is it DST or a Wonder Week? The adjustment to Daylight Savings time can co-inside with a phase of your child’s cognitive, motor or lingual development. This can make the change to DST, longer and more challenging. Watch your baby for signs that she is learning a new developmental task like rolling, pulling to stand, babbling, or grabbing to put things in her mouth. If you haven’t already, purchase “The Wonder Weeks” by Hetty Vanderijt Ph.D. and Frans Plooij, Phd. There is a handy chart to your baby’s “8 great fussy phases” that might explain why your child is not sleeping well. For our modern convenience, The Wonder Weeks is now an app! I promise, it will be the best $2.99 you ever spend. 
  • Sleep Training: The Sequel. Successfully sleep training your baby doesn’t protect them from DST (darn). The good news is that some of the techniques of ST can help your child with the time change. Remember “walk don’t run”? Use this for babies six months and older, who are experiencing more frequent overnight waking, early rising and short naps. 20-25 minutes of wait time can lead to your child self-settling and falling back to sleep. Program toddler light up clocks and sleep timers to gradually go off later each morning until your child’s sleep schedule falls back into place (10 minutes each morning). You can expect some protest tears, so apply the sleep training coaching techniques that helped your baby the first time around (time checking, shushing, pick up/down etc.).

My last word of advice? Once your child’s DST sleep schedule smooth’s out, allow yourself to throw a bit of caution to the warming wind. Every so often, enjoying the beauty of spring means more to the health and happiness of your family than a lost hour of sleep.

 

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