Daylight saving time is not a delight for anyone. Especially when you have just set the clocks forward by an hour and wish to linger in the bed longer to get some more sleep, this is worse for already sleep-deprived parents who have to deal with early risers and equally tough on kids. Younger children are less tolerant of sleep deprivation and tend to get cranky when their sleep rhythms are disturbed. So how do you manage to keep things flowing smoothly when it is daylight savings time change? Continue reading to find out.
What Is ‘Daylight Saving’?
Daylight Saving Time (DST) moves clocks forward by one hour between March and November every year. It is followed by 70 countries worldwide, along with the United States, and the practice has a slightly varying start and end times. Daylight savings as an idea comes from the change in the duration of day and night as the seasons change. In summer and spring and throughout the early fall, the daylight typically stays longer into the evening than late fall and spring. Therefore to ‘save’ the natural light and use more of the evening, the practice takes an hour of daylight from dawn and adds it to dusk.
To make it easier for people to remember how to set their clocks, the expression “spring forward, fall back” is used. It means you have to move the clocks forward by an hour in spring and move it backwards by an hour in fall. For the year 2021, the daylight savings date looks like this:
Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2:00 A.M. Therefore, on the previous night, set the clocks forward by an hour to spring ahead.
Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 7, 2021, at 2:00 A.M. Therefore, on the previous night, set the clocks back one hour to fall back.
Importance of Having Daylight Saving Clocks
In 1916, Germany was the first to observe daylight saving as it was cost-effective to keep the wartime activities synchronized with natural daylight hours. The United States started following DST in 1966, with most states choosing to adopt it except Arizona and Hawaii.
Daylight saving gives you more daylight hours in the evening. You can enjoy more sunlight while returning home from work, and your children can have more time to play outside in the evenings. Daylight saving is also energy efficient as more people utilize the available sunlight in the evenings and won’t have to depend on artificial illumination. Interestingly daylight savings leads to a drop in crime rates and even car accidents on the road.
How Does Kids’ Sleep Schedule Get Affected Because of Daylight Saving?
Humans and most other animals have their natural bodily rhythms regulated by the 24-hour day and night periods. These rhythms control mood, appetite, and, most importantly, sleep patterns. Being synchronized perfectly means you can sleep and wake up at the same time without feeling fatigued and getting a good night’s sleep. Daylight saving time alters the sleep cycle and induces a kind of jetlag that’s about an hour long.
At the start or the daylight savings spring forward time, children will have their sleep schedule disrupted. While grownups can quickly adapt to the changed time, children are less tolerant of it. However, parents who have infants who rise early will have a slight advantage during spring forward as they are fatigued by the early wake-up times, and moving the clocks forward syncs it with their infant. In general, when the clocks spring forward by an hour, kids who went to sleep around 7 or 8 pm when it was dark will have to transition to bedtimes at 6 or 7 pm when there still will be some light outside.
When the daylight savings end in November, the clocks across most of the United States will be turned back one hour. People often find that falling back one hour is often less useful than going ahead for an hour. This also means lesser daylight for the kids, and they will have to go to sleep earlier. Kids who were going to bed at 8 pm when it was dark and waked up by 7 am will have to go to bed by 7 pm and wake up an hour earlier. Although going to bed early is not much of a problem, they will have a tougher time adapting to waking up early.
Ways to Prepare Your Child for Daylight Saving Time
Here are a few ways to prepare for when daylight saving start:
1. Plan to make their transition smoother
Asking your kids to wake up a full hour off their sleep schedule isn’t going to go smoothly, and they will end up sleep-deprived and grumpy throughout the day. The best way to do it will be to transition them slowly a few days in advance by waking them up 30 minutes earlier every day in the morning and sending them to sleep 30 minutes earlier in the night. If you have infants or babies who sleep during the day, make corresponding 30-minute adjustments everywhere. For example, you would be waking up your child at 6:30 am and sending him to sleep at 6:30 pm. On the DST morning, wake him up at his regular wake up time. Say he wakes up normally at 7 am standard time; wake him up at 7 am daylight time. Although this is 6 am according to his body’s clock, you have already prepared him for this chance the last few days.
2. Be mindful of lights
The body’s circadian rhythm is regulated by melatonin, a hormone produced in the body as it begins to get dark to induce sleep. Daylight savings can create an imbalance in this and make it difficult to fall asleep or wake up at the new times. To smoothly transition your kids to sleep, turn off all electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, and dim all the lights in the house. Doing so will make them drowsy and improve sleep quality, along with keeping them alert during the day. To wake them up fully, have your kids see the sunlight as soon as they wake up in the morning. If possible, have breakfast outside or take them with you for a walk. If the weather is dull and gloomy, turn up all the bright white lights in the house to simulate the sun’s light.
3. Stick to a routine
The secret to success with fast adaptation to daylight saving time is to set a reliable routine for your body to let it know the sleep and wake times. Avoid any travel during the transition and go through the day with a schedule. Their bedtime routine could be a warm bath, reading a book in bed, or just snuggling, which gives his body a strong message that it is time to go to sleep. A morning routine to get his mind up and running could be to take the dog or for a walk or a stroll in the neighborhood.
4. Sleep and naps
Although it feels better just to let your child sleep in the mornings, it won’t help them get used to the change. Sleeping in would mean he gets extra sleep and has more energy in the evening, making it difficult to sleep at night. For older children or teenagers who feel sleep-deprived, a little nap in the afternoon can fix the problem.
5. Be patient and take it slow
After DST, be more patient with your children if they threw temper tantrums or become grumpy and frustrated. The change in our bodily rhythms is bound to cause some mood swings. While we can bounce back pretty quickly, children will take a while to process the change. If you have more than one child, you might even notice that one might take a little longer than the other to get adjusted. Stay patient, and in about a week or more, everything will be back to normal!
Daylight saving time can be a tricky time to manage our sleep schedules and get back to normal. The key to getting it right is to transition gradually and ride it out with patience, as children will take a little longer to get accustomed to it than adults.