Many people welcome the end of daylight saving time because it means an extra hour of sleep. But for parents, the time change means nothing. Children still wake at the same time, stealing that extra hour of sleep.
“This time change still can be disruptive,” Dr. W. Christopher Winter, a sleep expert and author of the book The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It. “As we move into this time period, we are going to wake up in the dark. The days are shorter and grayer and there is not as much sunlight.”
But what is a sleep deprived parent to do if they’re desperate to snag an extra hour in bed? Just prepare.
The experts recommend readying your family for the time change about several days ahead of it. Let your children stay up a little bit later and expose them to extra light. That will help them slowly adjust their circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates sleep and wake cycle.
"We are going to move the bedtime later by about 10 or 15 minutes. It helps them wake up later," Dr. Shalini Paruthi, co-director of the St. Luke's Sleep Medicine and Research Center in Chesterfield, Missouri.
But, the real work occurs the day before the time change. Delay breakfast by an hour. If it seems impossible, Winter recommended having them watch TV for an hour or taking them on a walk. Then make sure that lunch and dinner occur an hour later than usual. By gradually moving their meals back, you’re helping them slowly adjust to a later sleep time.
“You’re preparing them with activity levels, light exposure and meal planning,” Winter said.
He also recommended modifying nap schedules for younger children.
“Skip the nap or truncate it. Do your grocery shopping or something active and busy. Just really plow through that sleepy time,” he said.
While the idea of missing a nap might make you cringe, it will make it easier for children to sleep in after the time change. What’s more, let them stay up.
“Put them in bed late,” he said. “It creates a drive to sleep."
Paruthi said keeping the room dark the entire time a child is sleeping and maintaining a temperature between 65 and 72 degrees will help, too.
"Cooler temperatures do help people fall asleep faster," she said. "Make sure the room is nice and dark, quiet, cool and comfortable."
Also, remove clocks from the room. If children can see on a clock that it's their normal wake time, they might be compelled to leave their beds too soon.
If all the preparations fail, Winter said there are a few things parents can do the morning of to encourage their children to stay sleepy.
“Keep the activity level low. Make sure you are not opening up the blinds and turning on the lights. Keeping things dark for an extra hour,” he said.