Fall has arrived and with it comes longer periods of darkness and the end of daylight savings time. While the springtime transition that causes kids to lose an hour of sleep might be more of a battle, anything that messes with a kid’s sleep schedule is rough, so how can you help your child become little “morning people” – and avoid a rise-and-shine battle?
Dr. Jennifer Burgess, a family-medicine physician with Henry Ford Health System in Commerce Township, has some tips for dealing with the time change.
It’s more than a ‘sleepy’ thing
Children that don’t get enough sleep during the time switch may have more problems than being grouchy. “Kids can have issues with going to sleep, staying asleep, waking up early or wanting to go to sleep,” Burgess explains. “Older kids can have problems with inattention at school.”
Burgess, who herself is mom to two daughters, ages 2 and 5, recommends parents bump back (or forward if it’s the end of daylight savings time) junior’s bedtime two to five minutes each day to help cope with the change. “By the time daylight saving time hits, they will be back on their schedule,” she says. “Start a week or two before – especially if you go with a few minutes, because that can take a bit of time.”
Give incentive for sleep
In order to get your kids to bed at a decent time, the doc says it’s good to develop a routine that relaxes and gives kids a reason to want to get in bed. “Bath time or a book before bed offers encouragement,” she says. “Singing songs is always good too, and for younger kids, you may have to put lotion on in a relaxing way.” And be mindful winding down yourself; that energy is contagious.
“In general, sugary foods tend to make kids a bit more hyper,” Burgess notes. Avoiding foods full of sugar, snacks or caffeinated treats will help keep your kids calm and ready to sleep.
Make the morning great
You can make the flip side easier, too, by following the same basic rule for how you put your kids to bed: Push up (or back) the time you wake them in the morning, Burgess explains. An alarm clock that turns on a light – or has sun and moon visual cues to let the child know when it’s time to get up – can also be helpful. “You want to make waking up a kind of gentle and relaxing thing,” she says.
Change your attitude
“Don’t act out or be grumpy in the morning,” Burgess says. “Try to put on a happy face for your child.” Having a consistent routine at night and in the morning for yourself not only sets a good example for your child, but it also helps prevent insomnia, she explains.
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.