03/07/2018 17:27 EST | Updated 03/07/2018 21:28 EST

Daylight Saving Time Tips To Help Your Child Sleep Better

With a little bit of planning, you got this.

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No one really likes Daylight Saving Time but — for those who value sleep over sunlight, anyway — spring forward is by far the worse of the two annual time changes.

Cool, the sun is still out at 8 p.m. But we also woke up at what felt like 5 a.m. and want to collapse now, soooo ...

And while the reminder that DST starts this weekend could elicit eye rolls and moans from most people, parents might experience a slightly different reaction: sheer panic. See, while adults just have to re-set their alarm clocks and slog through a few groggy days, young children tend not to grasp the concept of a time change.

"Just when you have your baby on a great sleep schedule, Daylight Saving Time (or Daylight Savings Time, as some know it) hits and screws it all up," Pediatric Sleep Consultant Alanna McGinn previously wrote in HuffPost Canada.

With spring forward, that can translate into a kid that wants to go to bed an hour later (cutting into the precious time you use to binge eat cheese while lying down), refuses to wake up in time for daycare drop off (resulting in everyone leaving the house in their pyjamas), and expresses their exhaustion via tantrums.


Some kids are really sensitive to changes in their daily routines, Dr. Michael Dickinson, the president of the Canadian Paediatric Society, previously told HuffPost Canada. So it's important to anticipate and mitigate potential issues in advance, he added.

"When a toddler has to be at daycare for 8 in the morning, and suddenly we change when 8 in the morning is for that kid, that can be a major game-changer for them," Dickinson said.

OK, now we've probably scared you. But don't worry. We rounded up some of the best tips out there to help your kid adjust. With a little bit of planning, you got this.

1. Gradually shift sleep times

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Most sleep experts agree that gradually shifting sleep times in 15-minute increments are one of the best ways to prepare your child.

Start Thursday to have your child adjusted by the time change, Dr. Sara Nowakowski, a clinical psychologist and sleep researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told Cafe Mom. So, if your child's bedtime is normally 8 p.m., put them down at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, and 7 p.m. (new time = 8 p.m.) on Sunday, Nowakowski said.

You can take the same approach to wake-up times, McGinn wrote.

"If your usual wake time is 6:30 a.m., move it to 6:15 a.m., then 6:00 a.m. etc., so that once the clocks spring forward, your child will have already adjusted to the new times," she wrote.

2. Don't skip those bedtime routines

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If your children are used to a bubble bath, a book, and several renditions of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" before bed, don't deny them in the name of getting more sleep.

"For young children, it's absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime," Dr. Daniel Lewin, associate director of sleep medicine at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., told Parents magazine. "That's what helps create a powerful signal for sleep."

"Don't skip out on reading in an effort to get them to bed earlier if they're used to two books before bed — just move the reading time up in conjunction with an earlier bedtime," Dr. Elizabeth Meade, chief of pediatrics at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, told Cafe Mom.

3. Let light be your friend (except at night, when it's the enemy)

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For a child having a hard time waking up earlier, a dose of sunlight could be just the medicine.

In the morning, try to get your child in the light as much as possible, Dr. Lewin told Parents magazine. Natural sunlight is best, he added, but if that's not possible then at least turn on a lot of lights to make the house nice and bright.

But at night, that sweet, sweet sunlight could now make your child more resistant to sleep.

"Bedtime battles can ensue because the sun is still out when it's now bedtime," McGinn wrote. She recommends blackout blinds in your child's bedroom to help with falling asleep, and to help keep kids in bed when the sun starts rising earlier (we swear, it will happen eventually!).

Dr. Lewin also recommends dimming the lights in your child's bedroom and turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

4. Be patient

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It might be tough for a few days, and your child might not adjust as well as you hope, but be patient.

"The time change can cause such short-term changes in your child's mood, but your understanding and support will help him or her adjust a little better," Dr. Lewin told Parents magazine.

"The important thing to remember is we go through these time changes twice a year and we always get through them with a little time and patience," McGinn wrote.

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