Parents, in particular, often feel hardest-hit by the daylight saving time-shift -- when there are more hours of daylight and fewer hours of dusk and dark -- and children simply refuse to stick with their bedtime routine. Here are five tips that can save your family from daylight-saving-time disaster:
Keep it Consistent: Although it is extremely tempting to allow your youngster to stay up past his/her usual school-time schedule (after all, a family walk after dinner is SO nice), a consistent bed time and routine for your little one will give you a very high return on investment. Consistency is calming for children, which decreases stress hormones, helping them relax and get ready for bed. Ultimately, when you maintain control over your children's schedules and routines, you'll have fewer battles in the long run.
Keep it Calm: One hormone that plays a role in sleep in cortisol; when this stress hormone is too high, your child's body won't be able to slow down and go to sleep. Any pre-bedtime activities should be calm (e.g., colouring, sorting objects, or quietly reading a bed-time themed book), and should be done in a room where the lighting is dim, or the shades are at least partially drawn.
Keep it Cool: A mild drop in room-temperature will help induce sleep. Although a typical recommendation for room temperature is between 18° and 22°C (64° and 71° F), the bedroom's temperature should be whatever the sleeper finds comfortable. A basic fan can provide a comfortable decrease in room temperature while also providing the sleeper with some 'white noise' that may help cover outside noises and lull your child to sleep.
Keep it Quiet: The day-time noises that accompany daylight saving time can interfere with your child's ability to fall asleep. Everything from the typical evening traffic to the more novel sounds of neighbourhood children playing outside can be over-stimulating to a little one who is trying to drift off to sleep. In an effort to limit nighttime "noise pollution," consider keeping your child's bedroom window closed at least until s/he has been asleep long enough to have entered Stage 3/4 sleep - which occurs typically after approximately 45 minutes; white-noise machines, a fan, or air purifier are recommended to help block out auditory disturbances.
Keep it Caliginous: Dim lighting will help promote the secretion of the most important 'sleep' hormone, melatonin. Because sunlight inhibits the brain's production of melatonin, room-darkening or 'blackout' shades are recommended for bedrooms, particularly in the spring and summer months. Artificial lighting also prohibits melatonin, therefore, it is very important to turn off all screens (e.g., smartphones, computers, iPads, televisions, etc.) at least two hours before bedtime because, after all, the body can only secrete hormones so quickly.
Children do have a special knack for negotiating, however, so if all else fails you can simply tell your little ones that the sun gets to stay up longer because it is older.
How do these recommendations work for your family this spring and summer? Contact Renee Frances, B.S., B.Ed., M.A. on Facebook @Good Night Fairy, on Twitter @REMyGNF, or on her website, www.goodnightfairy.ca
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