This Sunday, our clocks will “spring” forward a whole hour, which might not sound like much, but trust me, it’s enough to disturb even the most committed routine-followers—and it especially affects the kiddos in the home. Little bodies have a hard enough time falling asleep when they’re supposed to, so daylight savings time can completely throw some children’s schedule off and even feel as hazy and exhausting as jet lag. An hour less of sleep does more than make it difficult to get up in time for daycare or school, and stirs up a whole grab-bag full of other unwanted symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, difficulty focusing and sometimes even behavioral problems. And these symptoms can often last for weeks or even months!
The good news: There are things you can do to help minimize the effects of daylight savings time—for you and the kiddos. Here are some strategies I recommend:
Start days before
While this can be tricky, especially for moms and dads who don’t get home until the later end of the day, putting your child to bed even 15 minutes earlier than “bedtime” in the days leading up to Sunday can make a big difference in their ability to adapt to the time change. For example, if 8:00 p.m. is officially “lights out,” move that time to 8:15 and 8:30 in the days leading up to daylight savings time. That way, when you switch the clock forward and bedtime becomes a whole hour later than normal, he will hardly notice!
Commit to routine
Parents should always try their best to keep their children on a routine schedule, as this can help give them a sense of security and is also a means of establishing self-discipline at an early age. But sticking to a bedtime routine is even more important around daylight savings time, when everything else in their little world feels off balance. Keep in mind that this routine shouldn’t just consist of tucking your sweet one in at night—it should be more involved and include things like bathtime, cuddle time or reading a storybook.
Limit bright lighting
There’s a reason we have an easier time going to sleep at night when it’s dark out and waking up in the morning when it’s light out. It has to do with melatonin, a hormone our body naturally produces that helps regulate our ability to fall (and stay) asleep. But when we switch forward the clocks, it’s typically still light out until around 7 p.m., as opposed to 6 p.m. To help your little one adjust, I recommend slowly dimming the lights in your home and switching off electronics that may also be emitting bright lights about an hour or a half hour before bedtime. In the morning, do the exact opposite: Start opening curtains and switching on lights to stimulate wakefulness and alertness. It works!
Serve up an all-natural energy shot
For whatever reason, after I turn my clocks forward I usually find that I’m not as hungry at my regular meal times and my energy levels are off. For an added boost (of both energy and nutrition!) I begin my days with a tried-and-true energy shot and smoothie. It works wonders to help reset my body’s clock.
- 1 – 2 teaspoons fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon local honey
*Boil 1 – 2 teaspoons of ginger in a small amount of water. Once softened, add 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Cool enough to drink.
- 1 – 2 cups of kale
- 1 pear
- 1 banana
- Water & Ice
*Blend all ingredients above and enjoy.
Use essential oils to help relieve stress
I’m seeing more and more patients for stress-related symptoms these days—even when it’s not time to set the clocks back or forward. I like to delve deeper into their lifestyle to develop a holistic treatment plan that can help them relax and ease into a less stressful way of life. One of my favorite ways to wind down is through the therapeutic and healing benefits of essential oils, which come from the leaves, stems or roots of plants. For some, adding essential oils to their daily routine is just what they need to help alleviate or take the edge off of their stress. Personally, I use some kind of essential oil daily through either topical application or by inhaling, but you need to experiment with what works best for you. To learn more about which oils I prefer most, and which ones are safe for the kiddos, read my article: Best Essential Oils for Stress.
Still dealing with daylight savings trauma days later?
Not to fret, Mom or Dad! This is totally normal, but parents often become frantic and worry they’ve done something wrong. First, relax. Not all kids will adjust accordingly to a major shift in their morning and night-time routine. They may be more sleepy or more awake depending on the hour or the activities they’re participating in. It might take time but I promise your whole family will start to adjust. In the meantime, try your best to encourage as much snooze time as possible so you can all get back on track.