WASHINGTON – Sunday, Nov. 3 is a day many adults look forward to, and one many parents dread.
Nov. 3 at 2 a.m. signals the end of daylight saving time, and while you technically acquire an extra hour of sleep when the clocks get pushed back, the body clocks of children are not so quick to adjust.
“The clock says five o’clock, but to the babies, it’s six o’clock, so they’re waking at 5 a.m., ready to go,” says Denise Stern, president and CEO of Let Mommy Sleep, an infant care and sleep consultant company in Bristow, Va.
“But to a parent, there’s a big difference between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.”
And that hour is not just a difference felt by parents. Missed hours of sleep can mean more meltdowns and tantrums for kids, as well.
“For adults, we might survive the day on an extra cup of coffee, but for our kids it can be a little tougher,” says licensed therapist and parent coach Kerrie LaRosa.
Both LaRosa and Stern say the best way to avoid the fallout from falling back is to start adjusting sleep schedules early.
For babies, Stern says to push up bedtime as early as two weeks before the clocks switch. But do so in increments — five minutes at a time.
“The thing with babies is that they really like things to be done gradually,” Stern says.
If your baby is normally in bed by 7 p.m., Stern suggests you try 7:05 p.m. for a few days, and then 7:10 and 7:15, and so forth.
For older kids, an increment of 10 minutes is acceptable, and a new schedule can be started a week before the clocks get switched.
For a child that typically goes to bed at 8 p.m., LaRosa offers the following sample schedule:
- Tuesday: Set bedtime for 8:10 p.m.
- Wednesday: Set bedtime for 8:20 p.m.
- Thursday: Set bedtime for 8:30 p.m.
- Friday: Set bedtime for 8:40 p.m.
- Saturday: Set bedtime for 8:50 p.m.
- Sunday: Back to the 8 p.m. bedtime, which is the original time, but now incorporates the hour time change
Halloween night might throw a wrench into the above schedule, but LaRosa says not to worry too much about it and continue with the schedule as planned.
If adjusting the schedule ahead of time does not help your child, Stern says to just get yourself that extra cup of coffee and grind it out until the next milestone happens.
“Like all things in parenting, you just have to ride it out,” she says. “It will even out in two weeks or a month, and this, too, shall pass.”