Daylight Saving Survival Strategies: Spring Forward
Daylight Saving Survival Strategies may not have even crossed your mind when you first became a parent. But where sleep is concerned, a shift in timing can really upset your child’s body clock. And every parent knows sleep is precious!
Every year the clocks spring forward by an hour, traditionally to make better use of daylight and conserve energy, and we want this change to go as smoothly as possible – or it can have dire effects!
In New Zealand, September (spring) is the month we set the clocks forward – easily remembered by the phrase “spring forward”, as opposed to “fall back” when the clocks go back one hour in autumn. Let’s have a quick look at why you might need a daylight saving survival strategy in the first place, and then you can decide on your best plan of action.
THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY
There are two general proponents to daylight saving: those that embrace it and those that wish it never existed! I think the phrase “the good, the bad and the ugly” sum it up perfectly.
The Good – those that embrace it highlight the increase of daylight hours in the evenings as a good thing. Indeed; for a Western population that typically spends more time awake in the evenings than in the mornings there are certainly benefits to being in the sunlight. These include better vitamin D exposure, increased exercise, increased socialisation, and overall improvements to mental health.
The Bad – those that oppose daylight saving highlight the fact that time changes disrupt our natural body rhythms. These natural rhythms affect our sleep patterns – and changes in sleep patterns can take anywhere from one day to three weeks to recover from.
As with any time your sleep is shortened or disrupted, daylight saving changes can cause poor performance, decreased concentration, lowered mood and poorer memory, as well as general fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Not good, right?
The Ugly – Daylight savings will often throw off the timing of your child’s sleep schedule (this is where it gets ugly). Resulting in grumpy, tired kids – for up to three weeks (What!!!!???).
However, before you panic, there are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go a little smoother. Starting with my first recommendation:
DON’T CHANGE THE CLOCKS!
At least, don’t change the clocks when they say to. Indeed, my first recommendation is to leave your clock alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast, then go around your house and change your clocks. Psychologically, it can feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time. Losing an hour during the day feels much better than losing a precious hour of sleep overnight. AND it means less hours with the kids until bedtime (I am half joking here, and half not – if you have a toddler you’ll likely know what I mean)!
WILL DAYLIGHT SAVING AFFECT YOU?
If you have a newborn in the house, or if you’re still gauging nap timings and bedtime by how long your baby has been awake, changing the clocks this spring shouldn’t impact your child – just keep on keeping on. HOWEVER, if you have an older baby on clock-based naps or a toddler or older child in your household, you may want a strategy to minimise the effect of springing forward this daylight saving.
There are quite a few different sleep strategies you can employ for surviving the time change. Here are my top three for older babies and children. Pick the one that will most suit you and your family (because there is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to children):
SURVIVAL STRATEGY ONE: SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE
Splitting the difference helps ease a child into the change – after the fact. There are strategies out there that try to do it beforehand, but I could never get organised enough to get my head around them! Kudos to you if you can!!
This approach starts on Sunday Night for older (non-napping) children and for the first nap of the day on Sunday for younger ones.
By splitting the difference, you’re minimising the impact of a full hour change, which can throw your child’s bodyclock out of whack. Instead you make 30-minute adjustments for 3 days to get use to the change, then move back to normal timings. It goes like this:
BEDTIME: If your child usually goes to bed at 7pm, then put him to bed at 7:30pm for the first three nights following the time change. (This will FEEL like 6:30pm to your child.). On the fourth night (Wednesday), just get in line with the new time so your child is going to bed when the clock says 7 pm again.
This strategy can be used for naps during the day too.
NAPTIME: put your child to bed 30 minutes later each nap using the new time, (which feels like 30 minutes earlier in the old time). So a 10am nap will now happen at 10.30am new clock time. Then on Wednesday, revert back to old nap timings again.
Yes, this will mean that your child is going to bed a little earlier than usual according to their bodyclock, but it’s a smaller change, and not enough to interfere with their schedule too much. It may take them a little longer to fall asleep since they may not be as tired; but in a week’s time (possibly two) they will be back on track again.
To make your child a little more likely to fall asleep earlier for daylight saving, you can increase their activity that day to help wear them out. The more they do physically or mentally, the more tired they’ll feel – but don’t overdo it – overtired makes it harder to go to sleep!
SURVIVAL STRATEGY TWO: ROLL WITH IT
If you have an older child that adapts easily and loves sleep, or you want to sneak in some catch-up sleep, you can keep their bedtime the same! This means they go to bed when the clock says it’s bedtime. If their bedtime is 7pm, it’s still 7pm.
This works best if you’ve had a busy day and your child is tired. Otherwise it can mean it takes them significantly longer to fall asleep for a few nights because they are in bed an hour early (so wearing them out the first day helps); and you might have to wake them in order to get to work on time new time if they sleep in – that bit is important to keep them on schedule.
Rolling with it can be the fastest way to get your older “tired” child use to the new clock schedule. The faster they get used to it, the easier it’s going to be on everyone.
SURVIVAL STRATEGY THREE: IGNORE THE CLOCK
This daylight saving strategy is not suggesting you rebel and refuse to change your clocks at all. It means you keep your child’s sleep patterns the same and change their bedtime (by an hour) instead.
This method will only work if their current bedtime is an early enough one.
If normal bedtime is 7pm – and you’re happy with a summer bedtime of 8pm (and a later morning wake time works too) – then by all means try it this way.
In winter my children use to go to bed at 6pm (my then 5 year-old) or 6.30pm (my then 9-year old) – and they slept through until 6.30am (when, as a family we got ready for our day). When the clock sprung forward, their new bedtime was 7pm or 7.30pm (and they still got up around 6.30-7am).
This worked as my children followed habitual sleep patterns – naturally sleeping longer hours in winter when it’s dark, and a little less when it’s lighter (they were also early birds then, so sleep ins were never a problem!). My children are older now and winter sport activities can disrupt this method – but it can work well if it suits your lifestyle.
However, if you are getting bedtimes later than 8.30pm using this method, you may be pushing it to (a) still have evenings to yourself and (b) ensure your child gets enough sleep (if they can’t continuously sleep in, in the morning). So again, consider it carefully.
Whichever strategy you choose, chances are it is still going to be light outside when it’s bedtime during summer. It can really help to have blackout curtains in your child’s room so the light doesn’t wake them in the morning or keep them awake in the evening. To find out more about making it dark enough for sleep (that may mean darker than you think), check this out.
Daylights saving; love it or loathe it – it’s still going to happen (Sunday the 26th September 2021 at 02:00am for New Zealand and and a week later for some states in Australia).
What do you think of daylight savings? Are you a fan or a foe?
Have you got any survival tips to share? I’d love to read your comments.
And if sleep is eluding you whether it’s daylight saving time or not – please book in a free initial call to see if a sleep package is the right thing to fix sleep issues in your family. You can book a free call HERE.