Our Dark Secret
Dark and sleep go hand in hand and there is no better time of year to embrace darkness than Daylight Saving Time. Good old Daylight Savings Time is not necessarily a happy time for many and definitely not a popular subject for parents of babies and small children. That thought of losing an hour of sleep doesn’t make anyone giddy. There has to be a secret to make navigating this yearly ritual a little bit easier, right?
Daylight Saving Time (or “Summer Time” as it is called in some areas of the world) will be observed this upcoming weekend on Sunday March 11th at 2:00 am to be exact. I often wondered why, why do we change our clocks twice a year? As it turns out DST was born out of the need to conserve energy at the time of WWI in order to make better use of daylight. The rationale for DST is to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.
That last sentence- “move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening”- is the problem for parents of babies and small children. Two key components of getting little ones to sleep is dependent on my mantra of DARK and BORING! Yes, those two things are a necessary formula for sleep. And so with that hour of daylight being pushed to evening, you can see that DARK is going to be difficult to attain with your child’s current bedtime.
We’ve all heard it from our children and we’ve all probably even said it as children ourselves, “Why do I have to go to bed? It’s STILL light out!” What is a parent to do? You can’t very well argue with that very valid point and yet you know your child has to go to bed on time.
Enter. Blackout. Blinds. Blackout blinds are a parent’s best friend for DST! You really have to work to block out that evening light which can be a struggle. And it is not just the protest of “Mom it’s STILL light out!” that you have to battle, it is also the physiological issue of our bodies slowing down the production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone that our bodies need for sleep) in the presence of light. Bottom line is that you really want to get it nice and dark in your child’s bedroom. Just to be sure we are on the same page…the optimum dark I am talking about here is dark enough to develop photos. Otherwise it could be a fight at bedtime that Sunday night after we change the clocks and a continual fight as the days only get brighter later as we approach the summer months.
Now that you have heeded my advice (the DARK secret) and have gotten your little one’s room to a 10 on the darkness scale, what do you do about the time change? Bedtime was 7:00 PM and you worked really hard to make that happen, but now 7:00 PM is really or was really 6:00 PM.
Answer: split the time difference. Put your son or daughter to bed at 7:30 PM (is or was 6:30 PM) for three nights. This will be a bit earlier than your child is used to going to bed and it may take a few more minutes to fall asleep but the key here is a gentle, gradual approach. Then on night four go with the target time of 7:00 PM and give it up to a week for the adjustment to take hold.
The good news is that now Daylight Saving Time doesn’t have to be dreaded. You are equipped with a plan for this upcoming Sunday night! Simply get Blackout Blinds in place and remember to split the difference.