Are you ready to Spring Forward?
Updated: Mar 7, 2021
If not, don't worry. I've got you mama.
Daylight savings time is a “thing” in less than 40% of the world. For those of us who follow it, it’s a big thing. In the world of sleep, it’s the biggest thing. There are so many opinions out there on the pros and cons of daylight savings. For many industries and occupations, getting an extra daylight hour each day has its benefits and therefore is appreciated by many. For others, the change in 1 hour of time does nothing but disrupt schedules for no meaningful reason.
I like to look at all sides of an issue before I choose one, but ultimately we humans will choose what works best for us and our families. For most parents, time change is a pain. Sure, it’s nice to have daylight a little longer in the evenings during the warmer months, but it’s also a pain to try and get our kids in bed when it is still light outside. So, this eventually leads to kids going to bed later which can lead to some overtired kiddos and parents. We get used to one way of doing things and then it’s time to “fall back” an hour with the time change in November. Children’s bodies have pretty sensitive clocks, so things tend to get wonky (I love this word, so expect to see it again) for a few days.
Daylight savings is not a hard concept, but for some reason, how to handle it can still confuse so many people (myself included). Personally, I think it’s because the 60 minute time change is mostly unnecessary and therefore harder to grasp. I literally find myself having to stop what I’m doing and think about how to make the change every single year. Silly? Yes, but in my head, so is time change. I've come to accept good ol' DST and even appreciate it during this time of year.
There are some positives to the spring forward time change. It's a great time to start pushing bedtime later and change your current schedule if a later bedtime better suits your child and lifestyle. Parents who work shift work might have more time to see their kiddos due to the time change. You can get out and do a little more with that longer daytime hour. So, it's not all bad once we get into the new groove.
Ok, now to the nitty gritty. I’m going to try and keep it simple for all of us out here who are just trying to keep our kids thriving and everyone surviving.
Every year in March, we deviate from standard time (ST) and start utilizing daylight savings time(DST) by moving our clocks ahead (Spring Forward) by 1 hour. So, 6:00 am becomes 7:00 am on the clock in whatever time zone you reside. This creates a little bit more daylight to enjoy in the warmer months.
What can you do to prepare for time change?
Keep it dark and cool inside your child's room. Get blackout curtains if you don’t have them already. You want their room to be dark if bedtime is before sunset. Black out curtains also help keep the child’s room cooler. 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
Be consistent with bedtime routine. If you make changes to your schedule, make sure to stay consistent for a few days and nights before deciding it did or didn't work.
Get outside in the sunshine as much as possible and let them play! This is SO important
Avoid bright lights and screens at least 1 hour prior to bedtime. We use amber colored lights bulbs in our lamps at home (they seriously last forever!!). When it's time to start winding down and begin the bedtime routine, the big lights go off and the amber bulbs come on.
Practice patience. Recognize and accept those few wonky (see) days. Remind yourself that it’s normal and will get back to normal.
There are 2 teams when it comes to handling the time change.
The Band-aid Rippers
The Slow & Steady Mamas and Daddies
For the Band-Aid Rippers, welcome. I tend to be a ripper of Band-Aids as well. Maybe it's the nurse in me? Maybe it was the spontaneous triplet pregnancy?
With this approach, you simply start jumping into the new schedule on Sunday when you wake up. Bedtime is rarely ever at the exact same time every night for most families. So, I suggest you try to do bedtime 30-60 minutes earlier the night before (Saturday) if possible, but if not that's fine too. If you want to push back bedtime permanently and therefore change your schedule, now is a great time to do it. Here is a view of what the schedule change looks like going forward. You will stick to the new time schedule every day going forward from Sunday.
Pro-tip: If you didn't plan ahead and take a gradual change, but now you're feeling weary about jumping a whole hour ahead overnight, simply use the ranges below, but focus on making bedtime be closer to 6:30 for a night or two and then eventually 7pm. Either way, make sure you don't let bedtime sneak past that latest hour during the first 5-7 days.
For the Slow and Steady Mamas and Daddies: You can make the change gradually by moving naps and bedtime up by 10 minutes every day for 7 days prior to time change. If you don’t have that type of flexibility, but want to prepare at least a little, start shifting naps and bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every day (starting on Wednesday) until the big day. This will help make the change more gradual and allows any hiccups along the way work themselves out. Moving the clock back in increments will eventually get you to the original time on the clock. See below:
I always preach “watch the child, not the clock,” and it’s so true. In our house we have a bedtime range that includes an earliest, ideal, and latest bedtime. For example: Currently, the earliest bedtime is 6pm with the ideal time being 6:30pm for our toddlers. The latest bedtime is 7:00pm. If our children are acting sleepy closer to the 6pm time range, then we head toward bed. If they aren’t acting as tired because they had really great naps or we find that their wake windows are stretching and therefore they aren't as tired, then we will have them in bed no later than 7:00pm. So, after you’ve switched to the new time, merely adhere to the same bedtime range while respecting sleepy cues and the child first.
Parenting is already hard enough, don't let this time change stress you. This change is typically the easiest. Kids do have sensitive clocks, but they are resilient. Everyone will survive. Use the bedtime ranges that I mentioned above. It helps everything not seem so strict, but also keeps you on track and aware of what your child is showing you.
For babies and toddlers, know that a bedtime much past 8pm will only raise cortisol levels and give your kiddo a second wind. So, stick to the ranges above and you'll likely avoid creating an overtired little one.
No matter if you start making schedule changes before the time change or the day of, you will have about a week's time where things are wonky (see) and settling into place. It will all smooth out! The main thing that I want you to remember is that sleep is important and a schedule and consistency makes everything SO much easier. Don't forget to blackout the room, get outside, and enjoy the seasons ahead!
**Note: Babies less than 5 months really don't have a true set schedule just yet. Some are still trying to get naps figured out. So, follow their sleepy cues, get those naps in, and get their bedtime to a time that works for your family.