Most mornings I need two cups of coffee. The morning after daylight savings, I need three. I'm tired today. Daylight Savings Time (DST) is a relatively new concept, about 100 years old. The original intention with DST was to save energy by making better use of sunlight; "fall back" by gaining an hour in fall and "spring forward", by losing an hour in spring. Either way, Post-DST Syndrome, not an actual syndrome, although as a mom, I think it should be as it reeks havoc for most people, about a week, and no one feels it more than parents and children.
Losing an hour or gaining an hour of sleep is disruptive. When we miss out on sleep, we never get it back. So the impact of lost sleep and changes in sleep patterns can linger well past one night.
Going into my thirteenth year of mothering, one thing I know, DST will be chaotic for my family at the end of the month. Post-DST-Syndrome is slightly more challenging as a parent and will require more time, energy and a lot of patience with myself and my children.
Today, it's the calm before the storm because soon the clocks will change, we'll "fall" back adding an hour to our weekend.
While we will be theoretically gaining an hour of sleep, changes in sleep patterns and loss of sleep can have the following aftereffects: sluggishness, irritability, limited patience, low motivation or less "get up" and go energy, increased appetite and reduced ability to use healthy coping skills. So while can be tempting to reach for more caffeine to boost energy, to cope with the disruption on your child's sleep routine, it could be helpful to try these seven strategies instead.
Here's how I survive the changes in Daylight Savings Time with children:
- Perspective. Post-DST is a week of adjustment for my entire family; adults included. Eventually, we will all adjust.
- Plan for More Time. While it can seem impossible to find more time in an already packed schedule, give yourself extra time, even ten minutes, to complete any activity, especially morning and bedtime routines.
- Be Flexible and Make Adjustments. If you and or your child are so tired and irritable, let go of the battle and make accommodations to get through the day; skip an outing or activity, simplify dinner and have left-overs, or make bedtime earlier.
- Increase Self-Care. Make sure you take care of yourself through getting enough sleep, eating foods that give you natural energy without jolting you into anxiety (e.g., caffeine), exercise and other activities you find enjoyable.
- Develop Patience. If you are feeling frustrated or annoyed, take a deep breath. Pause before you respond to a situation. If you can, separate yourself from the stress; the bathroom is a good place to take a break from your child, turn on the fan if they stand outside the door.
- Remember to Breathe. People who are stressed do not breathe deeply or regularly, instead breathing tends to be irregular and shallow.
- Try to Keep a Sense of Humor. Laughter and trying to find the humor in a situation can be a great stress reliever.
Even though we gain an hour of sleep in a few weeks, there will be an adjustment to our schedules. I hope I actually get that extra hour of sleep and can stay at my normal coffee intake. One thing for sure, DST brings me is all about change. The days will seem shorter with less sunlight but its a great time of year to bundle in with family, cook, connect and adjust. Because as soon as we are used to the time change, one thing is certain, its a matter of months before we lose an hour of sleep but gain the excitement of spring and summer.