Daylight Savings Time for Parents: Yeah, We're Dreading It, Too

by: Laura Richards
Whether we're springing forward or falling back, Daylight Savings Time can (and will!) wreak havoc on your child's sleep schedule.
Daylight Savings TIme

Daylight Savings Time (DST) is once again upon us, and those of us with young kids are dreading it. How do you tell your child that it's time for bed when the sun itself hasn't gone to bed yet?

What Parents Are Saying:

Parents have some strong feelings about DST, like Paul Westlake of Rockville, MD. This dad of two shares:

"I've always hated changing the clocks for a variety of reasons. When I became the parent of a willful toddler, my hatred compounded many times over. Every time the clocks change, forward or backward, my daughter manages to add an extra hour of mayhem to our nightly bedtime routine. At this rate, she'll be fully nocturnal by the time she's in first grade. When her teachers ask why she's so tired during the day, I'm blaming Congress."

We completely understand Paul's sentiments! As we "spring forward," everyone is thrown off — even the pets. My dog knows when her 5:30 pm dinnertime is every night. When we're "falling back" she's up in my grill looking at me with a "Hey, dinner? I know it's time!" look, but when we spring forward she's like, "Sweet! Dinner is early today!" It's complicated for everyone.

Daylight Savings Time Sleep Schedule

Emily F. Popek of New York and mom to one daughter says that she was never a fan of DST either, but when she had her daughter five years ago, her dislike of it only heightened.

"Yes, by all means, let's please have MORE daylight, especially at bedtime, so that I can try to explain why my preschooler has to go to bed in full, complete, blazing sunshine." She goes on to say, "I'm really going to enjoy 'springing forward' and trying to work out the calculus of bedtimes and waking times. Do I put my daughter to sleep at her 'real' bedtime on March 12? The time it says on the clock? Which would mean trying to get her down A FULL HOUR earlier than normal? No, that's never going to work. So do I then let her stay up for an hour later than her bedtime? An hour doesn't sound like much, until you have a cranky kid who's either tired and sleep-deprived, or angry at being put to bed at the 'wrong' time, and wanting to eat meals earlier or later than normal, and trying to understand why it's dark at the 'wrong' time, and everything. It's just exhausting!" Emily says that "springing forward" is marginally better than "falling back" because she has dim but painful memories of her daughter waking up at 4 a.m. after the end of Daylight Savings Time for the past few years. Shudder.

Tips to Make "Springing Forward" Easier on Everyone:

As parents, we know that kids need their sleep more than anyone. "Young children need more sleep and don't tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults," explains Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of sleep medicine at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. "The loss of just one hour can really affect a child's attention span, appetite, and overall mood."
  • Experts suggest to help cope with the springing forward of Daylight Savings Time, you start a week ahead of time by pushing your child's bedtime back 10 or 15 minutes incrementally. This way you aren't telling your kids it's time for bed a full hour before they are accustomed, but rather you're easing into it.
  • Room darkening shades or drapes also help with the transition. Trying to keep it as dark as possible in the room where your child sleeps. But we all know experts have the best of intentions and often the reality of what it's like in our homes is an entirely different story.

So, for all of you parents who have cranky, oppositional kids come March 11, 12, and the days and weeks following, please know that you are not alone. We are all in this thing together and contemplating moving to a state like Arizona or Hawaii where they don't practice this madness.