By Liberty Mahon, MS of Children’s Therapy Services Sleep Support
It’s that time of year again when we get to welcome spring after another long, cold winter! Yes, it’s time to spring your clocks ahead! Sure, this means that we will lose one hour of sleep on tonight, but it also means that long, warm sunny days are ahead. Here are a few tips to help your little one’s make this change:
- Stick to your usual schedule and routine. You will make adjustments to all parts of your daily routine according to the new time. Meal time, work, appointments will be according to the time change- your child’s sleep schedule is not different. If your child takes a nap at 1pm today then the nap should be at 1pm on Sunday, March 8th too regardless of the time change. Be sure to perform sleep routines such a calm a few stories or songs, a gentle massage or snuggle time before naps and bed times. These activities provide cues to children that it is time to get ready to sleep. This helps children to unwind and prepare themselves to sleep regardless of the time.
- Don’t let your child sleep in. Your child will not know that daylight savings has occurred and will likely sleep until his usually wake up time. Avoid the temptation of letting your child sleep past 7:15am. It may seem like a crazy idea to wake a sleeping child, but waking after that time will shift the rest of the child’s sleep schedule for the day. If your child has slept in, he may not be ready for his nap at the usual time. It is likely that in the first couple of days your child may want to continue with his former sleep pattern and he may seem tired in the morning, but within a week or so his body will soon adjust.
- Let the sun shine in. When your child wakes up or is woken up, provide wake-up cues using light that the day is ready to begin. Turn on the light, open the curtains and greet with a big, happy smile! Avoid the temptation to snuggle up in a dark or dim room and allow your child to nod back off to sleep. Just as a bedtime routine provides cues that it is time to sleep, a wake up routine such as time provides cues that it is time to be awake. Exposure to natural light will also help reset the body’s biological rhythms to the time change. While it is still cold outside in the mornings, play near windows where the sun is shining in. As the weather gets warmer, enjoy the playground or go for a walk in the stroller in the AM.
- Block out light during sleep times. Darkness promotes the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that makes the body feel tired and helps the body to fall asleep. As the days get longer and sunnier, it will still be sunny at bedtime and that makes it harder to fall asleep. You can make your child’s sleep environment darker by installing room darkening shades and/or black out curtains. Blankets, towels and even dark garbage bags are great temporary solutions if needed. They may not be aesthetically pleasing, but they do the job! Also, remove or turn off any devices that emit light in your child’s sleep environment. If light is needed so that you can check on your child at night, use a very dim night light and place it away from where your child is sleeping. You can also promote melatonin production by turning off tablets, phone and TV at least one hour before sleep times.
- Keep your child well rested. Especially during this change, make an effort to stick to your schedule and be sure to give your child the time and place to sleep. If her sleep is not at its best during this time, such as naps have become shorter, then put her to bed earlier to avoid an overtired state. Bedtimes are usually between 6-8pm, but can be as early as 5pm if extra sleep is needed. As I mentioned above, you can expect that it will take a few days for your child’s sleep to regulate as her internal clock resets. A consistent and patient approach is your key to success.Liberty Mahon, MS is a certified Early Childhood Special Education teacher and a certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant trained through the Family Sleep Institute. She is a co-creator of the Children’s Therapy Services Sleep Support Program. CTS Sleep Support offers a variety of consultation packages including in-person, phone, Skype/Face Time and e-mail consultations. Her services include a personalized plan and her support as she helps you to help your child learn to sleep better. Please go to www.childrenssleepsupport.com for more information or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Children’s Therapy Sleep Support Program on Facebook.