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Are you ready to Spring Forward this weekend?

An hour of sleep seems so simple.

But when it comes to the Spring time change, it’s anything but!  Author Stanley Coren states in his book, Sleep Thieves, that highway vehicle accidents increase by 7% after losing an hour in the Spring when we “spring forward.”  Yikes!  That just shows you the sleep debt we’re carrying around on a daily basis!

For the Spring and Fall time changes, adjustments in sleep schedules are very important to keep in mind, especially for parents with young children.

I’ve seen some families decide not to adjust to Daylight Savings Time so they can enjoy the longer daylight hours with sports, picnics and other outside activities.  But not compensating for the time change at bedtime will ensure that your child will need extra sleep in the morning.  This poses a problem for school-aged children who still need to get up for school or summer camp.  If your child is routinely staying up later and waking up at the same earlier time, he or she will quickly acquire a sleep debt.

Instead, keep your child’s schedule the same and you will be rewarded with a well-rested child. And when your child sleeps well, it’s much easier for you to get a good nights sleep as well!

For the time change coming up this weekend (March 8, 2015 at 2am), here’s what I would suggest:

For three days after the time change, push your child’s bedtime forward by half an hour. So if bedtime is usually 7:00PM, move it to 7:30PM (which will be 6:30PM on your child’s body clock).  Make sure to adjust all naps as well, so if your child usually naps at 9:30am, you should put him down at 10:00am (which is 9am on his body clock).

This means that your child will be going to bed a little earlier than the normal wait between sleeps but it isn’t enough to interfere with his schedule. It may take him a bit more time to fall asleep since he may not be as tired, but within a week, he’ll be back on track again.

On night 4 move bedtime back to the normal time and know that it’ll most likely take your child about 7-10 days to adjust to the new time.

Remember: Now that it will be lighter later in the evening, make sure your child has blackout shades in his or her bedroom.  If you already have shades in your child’s room that do let light in, invest in some blackout curtains and make sure to address the sides where light filters through. (Psst! If you get my sleep tips newsletter, there’s a discount code for my favorite blackout shades!)

For preschoolers and younger school-age children, put a digital clock in your child’s bedroom (with duct tape covering the minutes for the younger kids) and explain that 7 means bedtime and morning time (or use a toddler sleep clock).  Preparing for “springing forward,” you can set the clock back a half an hour during this week of adjustment so that at 7:30am, it reads 7:00am and I would encourage them get up a later than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, it will be easier and they would be back on track with their schedule.

The great news about THIS time change? If you have a child who’s up at the crack of dawn, wake up time will be much more reasonable after the time change!

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Photo credit: Deposit Photos | belchonock

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