Managing your child’s sleep when the clocks ‘fall’ back in November
On Nov. 2, clocks are turned back by an hour, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time. Any disruption to the sleep patterns caused by the time change will be temporary. But if you want to be proactive to minimize the disruption to your child’s sleep pattern, here are a few things to consider.
Two weeks before the time change, start to put your children to bed 10 minutes later than usual, increasing by 10 minutes every other night until they are going to sleep about an hour later than their normal bed time. It often takes a few days for a new sleep pattern to establish itself.
Toddlers and older
- Put them to bed a little later than usual the night of the time change. There are behavioral tools available to help with these schedule changes (Good Night clock).
- If they wake up at their usual time (an hour earlier), you should encourage them to remain in bed until a set time. This may be a digital alarm clock or the visual cue of the night light.
- When they remain in their bed until the “sun” appears on the clocks or when you inform them it is time to get up, they should be happily praised.
- The following day, provide a generous amount of physical activity to tire them out and then put them to bed at the new earlier bed time.
- The next morning, set the clock for the new morning wake time.
On the whole, it is easier for children to fall asleep in the winter months because it is darker and the environment is likely cooler at bedtime. The difference in light levels between day and night encourage the production of the sleep hormone melatonin in the evening when the light is dim, as there is a rise in melatonin and sleep is invited. Bright light in the morning helps a child’s internal brain clock to maintain a good rhythm, which helps the body transition easier from wake to sleep that night. Adjusting the sleep-wake cycle in November is easier to manage than when advancing the clocks forward in springtime.
In the spring, Mighty will have tips to manage your child’s sleep schedule when we “spring” the clocks forward March 8, 2015.
Karen Johnson is a certified nurse practitioner in the Children’s Sleep Center.