Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner. If you’re the parent of a toddler or baby, you’re probably concerned about how this might affect your young child’s sleep schedule. Time change is a bit like jet lag for a baby and may lead to their daily schedule being thrown off and poor quality sleep. Here are a few strategies and tips you can try to help your baby survive without endless days and nights of crankiness.
Do Absolutely Nothing
If you are one of the lucky ones with a flexible baby that adjusts to change well, your best strategy may actually be to do nothing at all. Simply put your child to bed and wake them up again whenever the clock says the usual time. You may be surprised to find that your child moves on as though nothing has happened or only shows minor signs of being affected, such as playing in their crib a bit longer before drifting off to sleep or being a little bit drowsy first thing in the morning. If the do nothing strategy backfires, you can always attempt one of the other tips.
One way to help your baby or toddler adjust to the change is to introduce it slowly. The week before or after time change, adjust nap and bed time by 10 minutes each day. This minor change should not cause trouble for your child and after only 6 days, you will be back on your usual schedule with the rest of the world. If your child is particularly resistant, you can always give them an extra day or two to adjust and stretch the process a bit longer.
If you have not invested in room darkening curtains for your child’s nursery, there is no better time than the present to do so. Our body’s circadian rhythm is influenced by the rising and setting of the sun. Babies and young children are particularly sensitive to this, thus why they are well known for rising at the crack of dawn when the adults would love to sleep just a bit later. During time change, the sun is rising and setting at different times, which may cause confusion for your child. If they tend to rise with the roosters, they may be awakened by the sunlight shining in their room an hour earlier. Or they may be reluctant to fall asleep despite it being bed time if the sun is still “awake” and setting an hour later than they are accustomed to. Using curtains to keep their nursery dark may help them adjust to these fluctuations easier.
Follow the Usual Routines
Children tend to be creatures of habit, so make sure that you are still following their usual bed time and nap routines, despite the change in the time. Whether your routine includes bath time, story time, or quiet cuddling time, babies and toddlers are very aware of these daily routines that you follow and what they can predict will happen next. By continuing to do your usual routines, your child will know that it is still bed time, even though the time has changed.
If everything else fails and your baby is having trouble adjusting, keep your head up and keep trying. Although it may not seem like it when you are both cranky and sleep deprived, this problem will not last forever and should resolve itself within a few days. Then you can comfort yourself with the fact that your child will be older and more mature the next time you have to deal with time change.