Daylight Savings Time: Ways to Prepare

Connecticut Children’s  “Bedtime Doctor” Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, joins our blog to share some valuable techniques that can help prepare you and your family for Daylight Savings on March 12.

cute little girl on morning

There are two ways to prepare for Daylight Savings Time. Adjust gradually during the week before the change: If your child goes to bed at 8pm, put him or her to bed at 7:45, 7:30, and so on until you have made up the hour. Adjust naps, too. OR you can…

Adjust on the actual weekend of the change: On Saturday night, adjust the clocks in your home after your children go to bed.  On Sunday morning, get your children up at the time they’ll need to rise on Monday morning.  On Sunday,  you will also want to expose them to sunlight at the “new” rise time for at least 30-60 minutes (play/walk outdoors) and have breakfast at the new time, too.

~ All day Sunday, do everything at the new time (meals, naps, bedtime routine) and put them to bed “on time” (an hour early but read longer perhaps).

~ Using your typical bedtime routine will help to cue sleep.

~ Try to help your children go into the change well rested.

~ Be patient if your children are short-tempered during the first week of the change.

~ It should take your children about a week to adjust.

In addition, it always helps to get up at about the same time each day, every day.  The weekend rise time should not be more than an hour or so later than the weekday arise time.  This helps to keep the “body clock” set properly.  Sleeping in later on the weekends makes it much harder to go to sleep on a Sunday night, for example, because there has not been enough “wake time” to let the body know that it’s time for sleep again at the desired bedtime.  Consistent wake times also help decrease irritability at rise time work and school days.

In the morning, try sunlight exposure to help with awakening at the desired time.  The bed can be situated near a window with open drapes.  If outdoor sunlight exposure can be obtained, this is even more ideal.  Perhaps breakfast can be eaten outdoors or while waiting for the bus for a school-age child or teen or perhaps some time can be spent outside after arriving at work or school during a break.  Sunlight exposure signals the brain to “wake up” fully and sets the clock for the same rise time the next day.

Some light physical activity (walking the dog or walking to the bus stop) and a breakfast with protein (a protein shake or an egg, for example) are also helpful.  On the weekends, schedule an enjoyable activity to take place at the desired wake up time so it is not so difficult to get up.

Some teens and adults may also benefit from a small dose of caffeine (perhaps a cup of strong tea or coffee) in the morning but generally, large amounts of caffeine should be avoided.  Use the word CALF to remember how to set the clock: Caffeine, Activity, Light (sunlight) exposure and Food.

Connecticut Children’s Sleep Center specializes in diagnosing disorders that disturb children’s sleep. To learn more about our center, please visit http://www.connecticutchildrens.org/our-care/sleep-center/

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