Daylight savings time can be a headache for parents, but planning ahead is key to not waking up with crabby kids.
The first question most kids ask about daylight savings time (DST) is if bedtime is going to be earlier or later?
But first, what is daylight savings time all about and why do we move the clock? Is it still worth it to do so as a society? And what effects will it have on your routine and sleep schedules? These are the other questions parents have to figure out how to address with their kids this time of year.
The clock change this year falls on Sunday, March 13. The hours won’t turn back again until November 6, which means most of the U.S. mainland (except for Arizona, they do not observe daylight savings time) get to experience living an hour ahead for a few months each year.
What is Daylight Savings Time?
So where exactly does this tradition of changing the clocks come from?
Most people believe that the idea for daylight savings time comes from Benjamin Franklin. However, although he was in favor of optimizing daylight waking hours, the road to daylight savings time is a bit more complicated.
Standardized time first became popular as a concept with the advent of railroads. Considering the speed with which you could get from one end of the country to the other, businesses needed some sort of common system for measuring time. The first time zones were established by the railroad industry in the late 19th century and codified into law several decades later. During the First World War, the practice of extending daylight hours gained popularity as a wartime measure to conserve energy—and it’s stuck with us ever since!
The basic idea is to move ahead one hour in the warmer seasons to maximize daylight hours, and then back again for the winter. Many appreciate this extra bit of sunlight. However, just as many parents know the frustration of resetting their kids’ sleep schedules and routines twice a year for this change.
What Does This Mean For Kids?
Daylight savings time is a simple move of the clock; however, our bodies make it a more complicated adjustment. Humans have their own internal biological clock, which doesn’t really care much about what the one on the wall says.
While most adults can cope if they miss a few hours of sleep, no one wants to handle a tired, cranky toddler (or pre-teen, for that matter) all day long. Planning ahead and adjusting routines a night or two beforehand can ensure that your family isn’t caught by surprise an hour short.
Help Kids Spring Forward
A little sleepiness is somewhat unavoidable at this time of the year. However, daylight savings time doesn’t have to up-end your whole life! By strategizing ahead of time, you can make the time transition a smooth one for you and your kids.
Take It Slow
Children are creatures of habit who do best with routines and schedules. This is why daylight savings time poses such a challenge! Prepare your kids ahead of time by informing or reminding them that the time change is coming, and setting into motion what to expect when the day finally arrives. This way they won’t be caught off guard.
The Night Before Is Important
Shift your routines ahead of time. This can mean having bedtime snacks and taking a shower or having meals 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual. Gradually adjust this to a full hour over the course of the week, so that by the time the big day arrives, your kids are already used to the new time.
For example, if your child goes to bed at 8:oo pm, a few days before the time change put them to bed at 7:45. Gradually adjust this to 7:30, then 7:15, and so on, until they are eventually going to sleep at 7:00. When possible, wake them up a little later as well.
Be Active Now, Sleep Later
An hour earlier bedtime also means one less hour for kids to burn through all that pent-up energy.
Therefore, you should strategize around this—wear them out during the days around the time change, to ensure that they are exhausted and ready for bed at the right time. Extra-long trips at the playground or time spent playing sports can do the trick!
Control The Lights
Sleep comes easiest in a dark room. This is because the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin increases in the darkness. As the evening approaches, this hormone signals to your body it is time for bed. In the morning with growing daylight, the hormone’s presence wanes, waking you up for the day.
Knowing this handy biological fact, you can control your kids’ adjustment process to their new bedtime by simply adjusting the light. Blackout curtains are an inexpensive quick fix to kids waking up too soon because of the early sunlight.
Another factor to consider is reducing screen time before bed; the light exposure from smart devices like cell phones and tablets can reduce sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime alertness.
Be Ready For Temper Tantrums
In the days leading up to the time change and even a few days after, be more forgiving of your child if they seem frustrated or troublesome.
This adjustment can cause a few extra temper tantrums and mood changes, but understanding and support can go a long way in helping them make the change.
Overall, patience is key—both in helping your child adjust and keeping your sanity. While you can be comforted by the fact that your household will adjust in a couple of days, the flux period can present some challenges.
Find A Babysitter To Help With The Adjustment
The annual initial switch to daylight savings time is a frustration for families everywhere, but you don’t have to go it alone.
A sitter or nanny, who specializes in childcare, might have some handy tips and tricks for getting the kids to sleep at the right time. After all, it’s their profession! Don’t be afraid to hire a sitter for a little extra help at this time.
Call Emmy offers an extensive network of babysitters and nannies across the U.S., so you’re sure to find someone who suits your needs. All of their sitters are pre-vetted to assure that no matter who you select, the service will be top-notch. Sign up with Call Emmy today and check it out for yourself!