It’s that time of year again when much of the country will "fall back" an hour, marking the end of Daylight Savings Time. The so-called “time change” will start on Sunday, November 5th at 2:00 am. So, don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour.
The end of Daylight Savings Time was probably a non-event before you had children, in fact you may have even loved it for that extra hour of morning sleep! Unfortunately, it's usually not that simple for children. The most natural system is to set waking hours with the rhythm of the sun. When the sun goes down, it's bedtime. If it's still light, you might want to try black out drapes or shades. When the sun comes up, it's time to rise and shine!
If you’re wondering how to help your child adjust or how to prevent early morning wake up times, there are some things that can help. With these simple tips, you can ease the transition and reduce the likelihood of seeing your toddler wide awake and ready to start the day at 5 AM.
Step 1: Eat pasta for dinner. Complex carbohydrate-rich meals are known to stimulate the production of serotonin, which can help your child relax and sleep soundly.
Step 2: For 1- 2 hours before bed there should be NO STIMULANTS including tv, computer, or loud activities or games. The purpose is to slow brain activity.
Step 3: Expose your child to bright room light for the duration of your evening as well as for 15 minutes longer than you normally would. Then, provide dimness for your child while you do your pre-sleep routine and darkness for sleep. For example, if you start your bedtime routine at 7:00 pm and its lights out at 7:30, keep the bright lights on until 7:15, then dimness to start bedtime routine and lights out at 7:45pm. Do this nightly until you have moved bedtime later by one hour.
Step 4: A nice warm bath 1/2 hour before bed is not just to get them clean. It actually brings down body temperatures! In order to sleep, your body naturally moves to a lower body temperature. It's a jump start on sleep. Use minimal lighting during the bath and bedtime dressing. Quiet book routines can be used to ready for bed.
Step 5: Lower the thermostat. Around 69 degrees is the perfect temperature for optimal sleep. Dress your child in light, comfortable sleepwear, not heavy pajamas. Keep blankets to a minimum with no heavy comforters.
Step 6: Turn off the lights. If possible the best sleep is acquired with no lights in the room. Full deep sleep is achieved without lights. This might be hard if you have allowed night lights, but perhaps you could try dimming the lights a little more each night until they are completely off.
Step 7: The next morning, when your child wakes up, keep him in darkness for an additional 15 minutes longer than normal. This will help set his circadian rhythm to the new, later time he’ll need to wake to keep his schedule consistent. You can go to your child, sit with him in his darkened room for a few minutes of cuddling, rubbing his back, singing lullabies, telling stories, or another sort of calm and quiet play. When the time is over, turn on the lights and actively start your day. In other words, you are keeping your child in dimness or darkness until your new target wake up time.
Step 8: Repeat steps one and two for the next few nights. Shift bedtime 15 minutes later, and extend the darkness 15 minutes in the morning. As bedtime shifts later, and the morning stays dark, you’ll see morning sleep start to lengthen.
Of course, not all of us HAVE extra time in the morning to sit with our child in the dark. You might have to be up and out the door or have other children to attend to (though maybe they can join you in the dark, too!). And so, if this is not a practical solution for your family, at least try to keep the lights as dim as you can, and activity low while you are getting your child ready for his day for that extra 15 minutes. This light change is significant in helping your child’s circadian rhythm readjust, and will help prevent those ultra-early morning wake up times.
Step 9: Expect up to three additional days (after consistency using lightness, dark, and 15-minute increments) for these light and dark reinforcements to take complete effect. While some children quickly adjust to the time change, others struggle. However, gaining an hour with the fall time change is generally easier than losing an hour in the spring.
Step 10: You may also adjust naptime forward in 15 min increments on the same days you are adjusting bedtime. In fact, if it's possible, it’s best to avoid taking naps, especially long ones. But if your child must nap, make sure it's early in the day, and keep it brief (no longer than 20 minutes).
I hope these tips will help… good luck!!
This is also a great time each year to ...
- Find the one clock in your house that does not turn itself back automatically (stove, coffee pot, or microwave most likely).
- Change the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
- Review and practice fire escape and family disaster plans. Click to read: Tips to Prevent Fires in Your Home.
- Inspect tires, headlights, taillights, and brake lights on all of your vehicles.
- Inspect tires, brakes, and reflectors on bicycles and scooters.
- Turn and flip your mattresses.
- Check your medicines, vitamins, and first aid kits, replacing expired items and restocking items that have been used.
- Schedule needed doctor and/or dentist appointments.
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