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5 ways parents can prepare kids for daylight saving time

From installing blackout curtains to wearing kids out, parents and sleep experts explain how to adjust to the time change.
Boy sleeping on bed with dog
Tiredness is somewhat inevitable at this time of year -- but these tips can help.Barbara Peacock / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The bad news is, daylight saving time is on March 14.

The good news is, this one is slightly less terrible than the other one.

"In my opinion, 'spring forward' is much better than 'fall back,'" said Katie Pitts, a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom of two. "That being said, it still can be a jolt for our little ones."

With more sunshine in the evening hours and the chance to sleep a bit longer in the mornings, "springing forward" can be a tough adjustment.

But before you give up on sleep forever, take these tips from experts and seasoned moms for surviving the shift.

1. Think of it like jet lag

“Traveling west to east is more challenging than traveling in the east to west direction,” said Dr. Judith Owens, who specializes in sleep medicine. “That is because the human circadian clock is actually a little longer than 24 hours, so it’s easier for us to stay up later than to fall asleep earlier in relation to our usual bedtime.”

Owens suggests figuring at least one day per time zone crossed to adjust to the new time zone or time change, which means the biggest impact will be on Sunday night when kids might have a hard time falling asleep.

2. Wear them out

On the Monday after the time shift, Jacque Rogers Foster's four kids struggle with waking up for school. To help them feel tired enough for an earlier bedtime, Rogers Foster and her husband, who live in Greenville, South Carolina, have developed a strategy.

On the first day of daylight saving, Jacque Rogers Foster and her husband tire their kids out with lots of outdoor play.Jacque Rogers Foster

"We wear them out on Sunday," Rogers Foster explained. "No indoor anything — our local children's museum, playground until dark, trampoline in the playroom after dinner — so they’ll go to bed earlier than usual."

This trick will, of course, require extra energy from parents, too. But the restful evening will make up for it.

3. Shift their schedule

If you can start a few days in advance, as Nashville mom Alexandra Toppins does, you can slowly nudge sleep to where you need it.

Alexandra Toppins and her husband begin preparing several days before, shifting their daughter's nap and bedtimes forward in 15-minute increments.Alexandra Toppins

"We try to start a few days to a week before and move naps and bedtime by 15 minutes at a time every two days," said Toppins, who also uses this technique when she and her husband travel out of state with their young daughter. "You may not be exactly on target when the time change comes, but you'll be close and the kids will adjust the rest soon enough."

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4. Buy blackout curtains

"This is the best time change," said Courtney Wagner, a mom in Amarillo, Texas. "My kids normally sleep an hour later for about a week — then their bodies usually adjust on their own."

But the bright light filtering into her kids' rooms at bedtime can occasionally cause a problem.

Daylight saving time can be exhausting for kids, but a few small routine changes can help.Jacque Rogers Foster

"Buy blackout curtains so they don't protest falling asleep when the sun is still shining bright in the windows," said Wagner.

Many moms swear by inexpensive paper shades like these, available on Amazon, which can be cut to size and stuck to a window.

Dr. Shalini Paruthi, co-director of the St. Luke's Sleep Medicine and Research Center in Chesterfield, Missouri, said that keeping the room dark the entire time a child is sleeping and maintaining a temperature between 65 and 72 degrees will help too.

5. Split the difference

In this method, parents split the extra hour by scheduling bed and nap times 30 minutes later to allow their child to adjust.

"If nap time was usually at 9:30 a.m., it’s now at 10 a.m. The same goes for the afternoon nap," Pitts said. "Bedtime, which is typically at 7 p.m., would be 7:30 p.m. instead. ...

With a bit of schedule adjustment and some patience from their parents, most kids adjust within a week or two.Alexandra Toppins

"This will mean that your baby will be going to bed a little earlier or sooner than the normal wake times in between sleep, but it’s not so much that it’s going to interfere with his schedule too much," Pitts continued. "It may take him more time to fall asleep since he may not be as tired, but in a week’s time, he will be back on track again."

On day four, parents can move forward to to the correct bed or nap time.

"Give it time," said Pitts. "And know that your baby will get back on schedule within a week, possibly two."

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Meghan Holohan and Sally Farhat Kassab contributed to this story, which has been updated. The original publication date on TODAY was March 7, 2018.