Daylight Saving…friend or foe?

Baby sleeping in a bright room. Sleep daylight saving time.Spring see’s the return of Daylight Saving, and after a long cold winter and short days, you’ll likely be making plans on how you will fill those extra hours of daylight, when the kids are fast asleep.

For most kids the change to their sleep patterns simply relates to becoming overtired and then more difficult to settle. It is easy for late nights and extra summer activities to get in the way of your child’s normal winter bedtime schedule, when the household settles into sleep mode earlier.

But love it or hate it, Daylight Saving can well be the catalyst that turns your good sleeper into a living nightmare and your household upside down.

Lets face it…you get so much more done without the kids underfoot!

Now is the time we start putting into place plans for how we are going to spend those lovely extra daylight hours.

If you are planning on getting stuff done, catching up with your favorite hobby, or just spending time with your partner, best get your little one’s sleep issue sorted early, before it becomes extra hard work at getting the kids to sleep and keeping them that way.

Routine, Consistency and Late Nights

The real issue is NOT the extended hours of daylight per say, but missing the normal sleep cues your child gives and then messing with their usual sleep routine.

Avoid scheduling in more activity when the evenings become longer. This particularly applies to toddlers and young children that need between 10-12 hours of good, night sleep.

Delays in starting the bedtime routine, and lots of interruptions, more daylight means busier households, can take its toll and cause overtiredness. Late nights should be for special occasions only.

What is the rest of the family doing when you are settling the little ones?

Any stimulation at the point of sleepiness, and this might simply be your older kids playing ball outside, can result in adrenaline and cortisol hormone release which signals an alert state. This results in your toddler suddenly having a great burst of energy, wanting to play and then refusing to go sleep. The more they protest the more hormones surge and the longer it takes to get them back to a relaxed state, that allows for sleep.

Quiet wind down time, eliminating light and making sure the environment is right are all essential precursors to getting your child in the right mood for sleep to happen.

Jane is a mom with three children aged 2, 9 and 12. She says;

“As a working mom, by the time we are all together in the evening and dinner is over, it’s basically time to get the children organized for bed. My youngest, Jack, sleeps well, and is asleep by 7:30pm. The older children are usually asleep by 8:30 and 9:30 pm.

When daylight saving came, we were a much more active family, having BBQ dinners and enjoying the warmer evenings, eating and playing outdoors.

We found that bedtime became later, particularly for Jack, as we lost sense of his usual bedtime. He became really hyped up and we thought he just didn’t look ready to settle for the night.

By the time his energy had worn off, it was usually past 9pm and then we found he took another hour or more to finally settle to sleep.

Then he started waking overnight, which was like going back to having a newborn in the house!

We thought things would settle when summer vacation began and he could sleep in, but he never did.

We’re not sure why he suddenly went from good sleeper to bad. We are exhausted and so is he.”

This is a very typical story, but what Jane didn’t know was that was Jake was functioning in a state of sleep debt, and this was his ‘new’ sleep pattern.

What is Sleep Debt?

Sleep debt, or deficit, is the effect of not getting enough sleep over a period of time, causing mental or physical fatigue. Both children and adults, can easily fall into a chronic sleep debt cycle resulting in difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, or waking too early in the morning.

Sleep deprivation affects the whole family. Mood changes, irrational behavior, lack of patience, difficulty with learning, poor memory, lower immunity, irritability, a decline in intimate relations and if you are a working mom or dad…a hard day at the ‘office’, every single work day – are just some of the repercussions of sleep debt.

Plan for Routine, Consistency and Limit Late Nights!

The real issue is NOT the extended hours of daylight per say, but missing the normal sleep cues your child gives and then messing with their usual sleep routine.

Delays in starting the bedtime routine, and lots of interruptions…more daylight means busier households — can take its toll, and next thing you know, your easy sleeping child has lost the plot, and so have you.

But with a few tips and a little bit of effort on your part, you should find no real issues for settling and keeping asleep over the longer days of Summer.

6 Essential Sleep Tips to Keep the Family Happy!

# 1 Good blackout covering on bedroom windows is essential. Bright light prevents the sleepy hormone, melatonin, from being released. Without melatonin, sleep cues wont happen.

Normal ‘white lights’ contain a blue wave-length that prevents melatonin from being released. There are special lights that don’t contain the blue wave-lengths. If you need a light to read to your child or help you see during other night-time routine activities, be sure the light you are using in your child’s room does not contain the blue wave length.

# 2 Check the room temperature – our bodies are programmed to sleep when the temperature drops. 62.6-71.6 F (17-22C) is the best temperature range for good sleep.

# 3 Make rooms that are pre bedtime spaces, darker. Closing living room and kitchen window coverings not only eliminates bright light, but reduces outside stimulation. Your toddler will definitely resist if he sees older siblings or family playing in the great outdoors! Don’t worry…when they are asleep, you can let the light back in!

#4 Create a quiet zone in the lead up to bed time, and remind the rest of the family too! Wind down time is very important to calm little ones.

#5 Routine – try not to alter what was working for your family over the winter and darker months. Resist the daylight temptation and make getting your child to sleep the number one priority.

# 6 Consistency. This is the one that is most likely affected, and when your good intentions keep being undermined by other things that crop up, sleep debt is sure to occur. Make getting the kids to sleep your priority, and the whole family will benefit.

Bedtime is the same every night. Preventing sleep debt means your child will sleep longer and deeper, and when they wake refreshed…so do you!

Enjoy Daylight Saving and remember… A well slept family is a happy family!

Deb Herdman

Deb Herdman is a former neonatal RN, mum and entrepreneur. She has developed a series of products to help parents help their children sleep. These include Sleepy Head TED (a sleeping Polar Bear) and Nigh' Nigh' Sleepy Head CD. You can find Deb on Facebook, Twitter, and her own site, NighNigh.com.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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