The dreaded start to daylight savings time is a little more than a week away. On March 8, we will spring forward to set our clocks ahead an hour at 2 a.m. What does that mean for us? It’s the loss of an hour, it’s also darker when it’s time to wake up and lighter out when it’s time to go to bed.
As hard as that is for adults, it can be even more confusing for babies and young kids... (and we can’t even talk about the cats and dogs in our lives).
Local pediatricians and a neonatal nurse and baby sleep expert offered some tips for families to get ready now for the time change on March 8.
Dr. Kelly Thorstad, a pediatrician at Lonestar Pediatrics, suggests starting one to two weeks before (AKA now).
She recommends moving the bedtime up 10 minutes to 15 minutes, for two or three days and then move it up another 10 minutes to 15 minutes, until you are going to bed an hour early.
Move up dinner time, too, because food affects sleep, Thorstad says.
When you wake up, open the blinds or go outside to trigger your circadian rhythm to help you get on schedule.
Dr. Nina Desai, a family doctor at Baylor Scott & White Clinic Austin-North Burnet, told us a few years ago that often babies, young children and seniors feel the effects of time changes the most.
Like Thorstad, she recommends gradually changing your bedtime, but she suggests doing this only three days in advance and changing it 15 minutes to 20 minutes each day.
This gradual change, along with changing your wake time 15 minutes to 20 minutes earlier, can help decrease the symptoms of fatigue and irritability, she says.
It also helps to get plenty of sleep leading up to the time change to avoid health and safety risks, she says.
All doctors will tell you to avoid electronics and screen time on computers, tablets and phones before bedtime. Thorstad recommends turning them all off 30 minutes in advance of bedtime, closing the blinds and avoiding light at bedtime.
For all year long, electronics should not be in the bedroom. Avoiding this artificial light can keep your body’s clock in check so you feel ready to wake up in the morning and ready for bed at night, Desai says.
Emily Blewett, a registered neonatal intensive care unit nurse and Moms on Call certified baby and toddler sleep consultant, says you might not need to do a whole lot of prep before March 8.
"Believe your family is capable of adjusting well," she writes in an email. "Our kids are adaptable, strong and resilient (and so are you)!"
Put your child to bed on Saturday night March 7 at your regular time. (Her bedtime essentials are blackout shades and an adult white noise machine.) "Many ask if they should start the transition sooner, but it's not necessary," she writes. "Kids are adaptable, and their bodies will adjust fully with just a couple of days from the initial switch."
Wake them up on March 8 on the new time. "Don't be tempted to let them sleep an hour later," she writes. "This may work for a few weeks but will become difficult as the sun starts coming up earlier. It's best to go ahead and re-set and follow your typical daily routine for the rest of the day."
Typically this time change has happened at the start of spring break. This year, spring break a full week away, making it even more important to get on track sooner.
"Expect that kids might be off for a day or two, but be consistent with your routine," Blewett writes. "Within two to three days, everyone will have adjusted to the time change."