Brace Yourselves, Parents: It's Almost Time to 'Spring Forward'
Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii (so jealous of you right now!), you’re probably gearing up for the spring event that every parent dreads: Daylight Saving Time, when we, as the cutesy slogan suggests, “spring forward” — setting our clocks ahead one hour, thereby throwing off everybody’s sleep schedule and making it pitch-dark in the mornings just when we’re trying to pep up. It’s hard enough just to be a human being during these times, but when you’re a human being trying to raise small humans whose sleep patterns have just been thrown into a tailspin, it’s a whole other ballgame.
In the past five years, says the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have passed legislation that supports year-round Daylight Saving Time — meaning no more twice-yearly adjusting of the clocks. But since states’ adherence to Daylight Saving Time is a federal law, it’s gonna take a literal act of Congress to change it. For the past few years, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has introduced (and reintroduced) the Sunshine Protection Act, imploring Congress to “lock the clock” — and in March 2022, the Senate unanimously passed that act, sending it to the House for action. However, despite its broad support, the legislation was never brought up for a vote.
So here we are, parents, preparing once again for the upheaval of routine we can’t wait to gripe about next week. And since we’re here, we may as well talk about how to make the adjustment into Daylight Saving Time just a smidge easier.
According to the Better Sleep Council, half of all American parents say daylight savings affects their kids; more than 29 percent report it’s more difficult to get children to sleep after the time change. That’s because if you’re trying to put them to sleep at their normal bedtime, it feels one hour earlier to them because it is one hour earlier.
We know plenty of kids who end up in tears when they spend more than an hour trying to fall asleep. And why shouldn’t they? They’re frustrated, and they’re anxious about being tired the next day. And you know that feeling the morning after, when you practically need a forklift to get your kids out of their beds? Yeah, so do we.
How can it possibly be morning already? We all wonder. Because it is still so dark.
So what do you do about Daylight Saving Time (other than complain) if you have kids? Here are our top five tips.
Avoid screens before bed.
This is good kid-sleep advice anytime, but especially when you’re trying to shift their sleep around daylight savings. The blue light from that iPad or TV is going to alert their brains to stay awake — the last thing you need when trying to urge them to bed earlier.
Take it slow.
Don’t expect your kids to adjust overnight. It can even be helpful to switch them over in 15 minute increments over the course of a few days/nights or a week. Sleep consultant Sarah Mitchell tells Care.com that the time increments should depend on the child’s age; adjust a baby’s bedtime by 15 minutes at a time, a toddler (age 1+) by 20 minutes per day, and school-age kids by 30 minutes. That’s just two days to shift the whole extra hour! Easy.
Stick to that bedtime routine.
Whatever it is. Bath, books, bed, bourbon? (OK, no bourbon.) Those nightly rituals are the signals that remind children it’s time for bed even if they feel like doing cartwheels and headstands.
Try meditation or reading before bed.
This can work wonders for older kids. Try having them listen to a guided meditation on the app Headspace. For night owl kids, meditation can be really helpful to settle down and fall asleep on school nights. Here are some other great meditation app options for kids.
Avoid big meals.
That is, avoid them two or three hours before bed, since it can interfere with sleep. And, in case you need the reminder: Don’t give kids a lot of sugar before bed.
As bad as this adjustment is, lots of parents find that “springing forward” is generally easier than “falling back” because in the fall, your children will wake up one hour earlier. And ain’t nobody got time for that.
My son, for one, spent the first 1.5 years of his life sleeping straight from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. — and the end of daylight savings meant 4 a.m. It made no difference whether I tried to keep him up later. But even he, early bird of my heart, adjusted over time.
So parents, take heart — and make coffee. You’re not alone. This, too, shall pass; your children will eventually adjust to DST. Try not to obsess over it (too much). New parents have a tendency to discuss daylight savings with the intensity of trying to figure out how to achieve world peace, and it’s just not worth that level of dedication.
We promise: Your kid will eventually get back on their schedule. You will all get some sleep. And eventually, you may even enjoy the extra light at the end of the day. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and Congress will decide to do away with this antiquated crap once and for all. But for now, all you really have to do is remember to change the clocks so you aren’t late for school. Godspeed.
A version of this story was originally published in March 2017.
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