Fall back – into sleep

Are you ready for Day Light Savings Time to change?   This year, Halloween happens to fall on a Saturday and the time to change our clocks back is the next day,  Sunday,  November 1st at 2:00 a.m.

Great, you say!   We finally get back that extra hour of sleep that was snatched away from us in the Spring.  Perfect timing!   After a Halloween night of over-stimulation, delayed bedtime, abundance of sweets – we’ll all get to sleep in!

Well… perhaps.  But, if memory and experience serves me correctly,  even after a later than usual bedtime,  our kids could rise and shine an hour earlier than usual.  Our own body clocks are accustomed to waking us at a regular time – often when the sun rises.  Because we will be re- setting our bedroom clocks  back one hour – our alarm clocks will go off at this new time but be prepared for our children’s internal clocks to have already roused them.

From year to year, I hear parents reacting in frustration to this time- switch adjustment and wondering how long this early awakening will continue.  They report that their children are fussy and out-of-sorts.

Sleep is such a huge factor in the way our children behave. More and more research reports that challenging behavior can be traced to insufficient sleep.  Many of us are surprised to hear that our children ( and ourselves) are not getting enough sleep.  Babies need 14-16 hours in a 24-hour period;  toddlers 13 hours total, including a nap;  preschoolers 12 hours, including a nap;   school-age children, ten hours;  adolescents, 9.25 hours;  adults, 7.5 -8 hours a night.

So – Sunday, November 1st may be a challenging day for parents because our children will probably be suffering from insufficient sleep and disruption of routines the night before.   Sleep affects how a child controls his emotions, actions, attention span, cooperation, his performance in general.  The temper tantrum because you poured milk in the red cup rather than the pink one is more about lack of sleep than caring about the color of the cup or a devious attempt to drive you crazy.

This is a good time for all of us  to take a careful  look at how much sleep our families are getting.  If we are struggling with a whiny, demanding child, on a daily basis,  whose melt-downs are frequent, inadequate sleep is very likely the culprit. The same goes for our own patience and resilience as adults.

When misbehavior is a result of not enough sleep, we can try every discipline trick in the book but until we have a rested child, the intensity of emotions and out-of-bounds behavior will continue.

So this weekend, even for those children who are usually well-rested, you may experience melt-downs.  Plan a low-key, hang-around day.  Get everyone out in the morning light (which sets our internal clock for us),  some physical activity – walks around the neighborhood, raking leaves, healthy foods, reading time, naps, coloring, doing puzzles – a peaceful winding down to a busy weekend. In other words, relax and lower your expectations a bit.  You’ll all profit from it.

For excellent information about the  importance of  sleep and your child’s behavior, check out Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s (author of Raising your Spirited Child) book,  Sleepless in AmericaIs your child misbehaving or Missing Sleep?

Also,  Family Resources offers periodic workshops based on this book.  And one-on-one Parent Coaching is always available,  free of charge,  to address this issue in depth and help you and your family get the sleep you need.  Just call for an appointment.

Sweet Dreams!

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