How to help your child "spring forward"

Spring is around the corner and with the coming of warmer days and daffodils, we also have the dreaded transition to Daylight Saving Time (DST). While the longer days are nice, the havoc the time change can play with our bodies and schedules can be a big adjustment. If you have kids, there can be some additional challenges. Here are some tips for helping your family “spring forward” to make the transition a little less stressful this year.

Slowly change bedtime before the clock changes

Some kids won't have any trouble with the adjustment, but for most kids, they simply won't be tired when Daylight Saving Time says it’s bedtime.

  • One fix is to push bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier every 3 days in the week leading up to March 8th, Do the same for naps as best you can.
  • If you have to wake your child up in the morning, then wake him up 10-15 minutes earlier, too. If your kids wake you up, this presents a different challenge for you.
  • Many experts recommend that you don't try to wear your kids out before bedtime. Often, this can backfire, causing children to be so over-tired it's difficult for them to fall asleep.

Sync your child's rhythm naturally

Our bodies have a natural clock called the circadian rhythm, which helps us feel energetic in the daytime and ready for sleep at night. This rhythm is regulated by melatonin, a hormone controlled by the light receptors in our eyes. When it’s dark, melatonin increases. When the sun is out, our melatonin goes down. You can influence the amount of melatonin in your body naturally by being in or avoiding light.

  • In the morning, eat breakfast near a window to get your child’s melatonin release synced up with the sun. Going for a walk when the sun is up can help, too.
  • At night, keep the bedroom cool and dark. Blackout curtains can be used to help block the sunlight streaming into a room.
  • If a child is afraid of the dark, a nightlight can be used, but avoid the overhead lights if possible. 

Avoid rhythm wreckers

We know that blue-spectrum light used by most cellphones, tablets, and other devices can affect melatonin release.

  • The time changes with DST may be the perfect time to try taking the screens out of your child’s bedtime routine.
  • If screen time is simply a must, then try to make sure it ends at least 30 minutes before your child’s bedtime. Make sure the device is on ”night shift” mode which lowers blue light. 
  • Television is another screen. Even if your child seems to get drowsy while watching, the light may affect melatonin levels, making it harder for everyone to sleep.

Keep in mind that sleep isn't the only part of your child's schedule

When kids’ sleep schedules are disrupted by Daylight Saving Time, parents tend to assume that they’re cranky because of poor sleep. We forget that our kids’ tummies can be used to a schedule, too. That’s why mealtimes should also be adjusted a few days out. It’s easiest to follow the same pattern you did with bedtime—if your child has a fixed meal schedule, then bump it by 10-15 minutes every few days until the big day.

Keep your cool

Taking a few deep breaths, taking care of yourself, and having patience with your child as she works out her new routine will go a long way toward making this a better experience for the whole family. 

Remember, this problem won’t last forever. Even if the above tips don’t work and your child has a hard time adapting, the new schedule will likely be worked out over the course of a week or two. And the future, you may not have to worry. Utah recently passed SB59 which would make Daylight Saving time permanent. If signed by Governor Herbert, approved by Federal law, and passed in 4 other western states, we may eventually be done adjusting to time changes twice a year.