Time Change and Sleep

Spring Time Change

On Saturday night, March 10, you can go through your house and move your clocks one hour forward. The problem is that your child does not have a button which allows you to adjust their body clock. Spring ahead Daylight Saving Time means you will lose an hour on Sunday, March 11. If your child is already sleep deprived, a lost hour will not help.

If your child is a good sleeper and well-rested, he/she can handle the spring time change. It takes about a week for the body to completely adjust. Keep following the same healthy sleep habits.

If you have a little early bird who is waking up at 5 AM, that will now become 6 AM, which might be more tolerable. That is the Good News.

Bedtime can be the Bad News.  The sun will be up later in the evening making the world pretty bright when you are trying to put your child to sleep. You will be attempting to get your child to bed an hour earlier then their body clock is used to. It will be a bigger challenge for your child to sleep.

Do not allow your child to stay up later hoping they will sleep longer and better. Staying up later has the opposite effect. An overtired child will have more trouble falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep during the night.

When the sun is still bright and your child is not as tired, it is easy to let bedtime slide later. However, morning will still come an hour earlier.  Most of us have a schedule to follow and must be at school or work at the same time each day. We do not have the luxury of sleeping as long as we desire in the morning. If the bedtime slides later and your morning starts as usual, your child will be getting less sleep. This leads to a tired, grouchy child who has difficulty waking up and difficulty learning.

One solution to dealing with Daylight Saving Time is to move the bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every day, starting on Wednesday, March 7. It is helpful to move feedings and naps 15 minutes earlier each day also.  The result is that your child will be ready when you move the clocks ahead one hour on Sunday, March 11.

When should sleep begin for your child?

The most restorative sleep is in the early portion of the night. The sleep cycles at the beginning of the night are longer and deeper than the sleep toward morning.  The deep sleep allows the brain to move previous learning like the many new things your child is discovering each day into long-term memory.

The brain and body are both refreshed during the deep sleep portion of the cycles. I always promote an early bedtime to get the most restorative sleep and the correct amount of sleep your child needs. A well-rested child is a happier and healthier child.

To help move your child’s biological clock earlier for the spring time change, expose your child to morning sun or bright light when they wake in the morning. Avoid the late afternoon sunlight. Begin to dim the lights in your home an hour before bedtime. Keep that last hour before bedtime relaxing and calming to prepare your child’s body for sleep.

Use blackout curtains or blinds to block the light when you are putting your child to bed. The blackout curtains also keep their room dark to prevent waking too early in the morning. Light tells the body to wake up and can interfere with sleep. If your child needs a night light in their room, make sure the light is red or orange which will not interfere with sleep.

Spring is a time of new beginnings. Start your spring with a well-rested child and a well-rested family.

Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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