Daylight Saving Time is no fun for anyone. That groggy, “I really don’t want to get out of bed” feeling lingers for days after you set your clocks forward and can make any already sleep-deprived parent feel exhausted. But the loss of sleep can be even tougher on your kids. Young children need more sleep and don’t tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults.
The good news: You can take steps to help mitigate the effects of daylight saving time.
Take Baby Steps
Don’t just set the clock forward an hour one night and expect your child to get right back in sync; it takes some time to adapt to that loss of sleep. To help adjust, start gradually shifting your kid’s bedtime later in preparation for Daylight Saving Time. So if your child goes to bed at 8 p.m., four days before the time change, the next night put him to bed at 8:15 p.m., then 8:30 p.m., and so on until he’s going to bed as close to 9 p.m. on the evening of fall back. I know you’re reading this right now thinking W-T-F 9 P.M.!!?? If he’s still sleeping in the morning wake him up 15 minutes later than his usual start time. Doing this step-by-step is not as much a shock to the system as it is when you abruptly expect your child to fall asleep an hour earlier after the time change, plus you’re not wrangling a sleeping child out of bed to make it to school on time.
Stick with a Routine
When Daylight Saving Time ends, it’s especially important to stick with a bedtime routine, as your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw him off. For young children, it’s absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime.
Get Enough Sleep NOW
Also, in the days before you change your clocks, make sure your child is getting plenty of shut-eye. Sleep makes sleep.
Going into Daylight Saving Time well-rested will greatly help your child because he won’t be cranky and overtired, which can make falling asleep even harder.
In the days following Daylight Saving Time, try to be more forgiving if your child is throwing extra temper tantrums and seems to be particularly frustrated or difficult in any way. 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.
With all the focus on your kid’s sleep, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too! Parents can feel sluggish and cranky themselves after the daylight saving time switch, so make sure you’re getting the rest you need as well, so you’re not overly irritable with your child. And remember: These effects are short-lived. Within a week or so, everything should be back to normal.