Daylight savings can be a stressful time of the year for many families. As we head into the summer months, we turn the clocks forward 1 hour to preserve our sunlight into the evening. As parents, we tend to dread the following morning, not knowing what to expect of our children's wake times. For example, you may find that those pesky early risers wake an hour later in the morning, maybe at a more appropriate wake time (we're talking those cute 5am up and at 'em types). Sounds perfect, right? WRONG. Sorry, mamas, but that sunlight is going to creep earlier and earlier into your morning until BAM! Hello again, 5am.
It's OK! There are a few solutions to help your munchkins transition smoothly.
Children with healthy sleep habits should have no problem shifting their schedule naturally, but here are a few actions we can take to help facilitate a smooth schedule shift:
Sleep associations are the core to how we fall asleep and stay asleep. As adults, we may require a closed door, pitch black room, cool sheets, the fan on, white noise, etc. When we fall asleep at night we expect everything to be just the way we left it when we wake in the morning. If something is out of whack, we have trouble falling asleep. Similarly, babies naturally associate certain conditions with naps and bedtime and, as parents, we must strive to make their environment conducive for sleeping.
Sleep is a learned process; the sooner a baby learns to fall asleep unassisted, the easier changes will be on them and their parents. Healthy sleep habits do not necessarily have to come from tough love. A small child can be taught to associate sleep with positive activities, such as a story or a calming bath. The concern for the child’s emotional development is very real for every parent and if modern society allowed parents to practice a proximal care style, there would not necessarily be a need for children to cry themselves to sleep at such young ages. However, human biology plays a role in how infants learn to fall asleep. They develop associations with every new stage in life; sitting in a high chair means food time, putting on shoes means time to go outside. They will associate their parents for sleep rituals and be unable to return to sleep by themselves. If we, as parents, never give our children the opportunity how will they learn?
A baby can be taught to self-soothe from the day they are brought home from the hospital. Just the simple practice of laying them down when they shows signs of tiredness will allow them to drift to sleep, unassisted. But, for children who have never been taught to self-soothe, the process can be temporarily upsetting. Depending on the temperament of the child, the parents’ concerns, and the child’s sleep deficit will determine which sleep training method will work the best. But the older the child, the harder it will be to disassociate old routines, use softer methods of sleep training, and create new healthy sleeping habits.