Getting Ready to Spring Forward

While most of us in Atlantic Canada may not be seeing many signs of Spring coming soon, Daylight Savings Time is fast approaching.  For those of you with young children this does mean that the daily schedule you may have just had figured out will be affected…again!

On Sunday, March 8, 2015, the clocks will be springing forward.  This means that if you have a child who normally wakes up at 6:00 or 7:00 am, they are likely to sleep in an hour or so until their body adjusts to the time change.  Here are my tips for making the transition as easy as possible:

  • On March 5th, start all meals* and sleep times 15 min earlier
  • On March 6th, start all meals and sleep times 30 min earlier
  • On March 7th, start all meals and sleep times 45 min earlier
  • On March 8th (beginning of DST), have all meals and sleep times start according to your normal schedule.

*This isn’t always possible due to scheduled daily activities

Other Tips

  • As you’re offering earlier bedtimes in preparation for the time change, your child may not be ready for sleep right away.  However you are encouraging them to relax, and so long as your keep your routine consistent, there should be no reason for you to deal with major bedtime battles.
  • If you use a tot clock or keep a lamp on a timer in order for your child to know when it is “ok to wake,”  remember to adjust the timing on these tools during the transition period.
  • If you find your child is having difficulty adjusting to the time change, use daylight and outdoor activity to your advantage when you can.  Exposure to fresh air and sunlight will help reset your child’s biological clock and prime them for sleep when you get them in before nap times.
  • Of course, your best weapon against daylight savings time is having a consistent and predictable routine for your child.  Starting with a warm bath is the best cue for your child, as it is unlike anything else they do during the day.  Then limiting the bedtime routine to about 30 min, so it doesn’t drag out, you can incorporate your choice of lullabye, story time, family prayer, or daily reflection following pajamas and brushing teeth.  This is a special time to bond with your children, and if you’re consistent with it, not only will your efforts pay off, but your children will look forward to this time with you before bed too!

Holiday Sleep Tips

xmas baby


The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner. With all the excitement and events it can be tricky to keep our little ones well rested and prevent meltdowns with all the change to the normal routine. Here are some tips to get your through the holiday season:

  1. Don’t be a slave to your routine.

Let’s face it, kids thrive on routine. That being said, if you haven’t already got a regular routine going, now is not the time to start sleep training. With all the excitement, events and family visiting, it’s difficult to adhere to exactly the same schedule every day. So don’t beat yourself up. Try and maintain your child’s daily routine with regards to nap timing as much as you can. If your child misses a much needed nap, you’re more likely to deal with temper tantrums and frustration later in the day. You can prep your toddler by giving them the heads up the day before and telling them about the exciting things that are going to be happening.


  1. Don’t let bedtimes get too late.

Often one of the challenges with dinner parties around the holidays is that bedtimes often get pushed back late. So whether you are staying overnight or not, be prepared to get your child ready for bed around the same time that they would normally go down. Make sure that your hosts can give you some space to prep your child for bed, and go through your normal bedtime routine. Of course you may be doing your entire bedtime routine before loading the kids in the car for the drive home, or you may be putting them down in a guest room until you are ready to leave.   Either way, ensure that you have brought all the comfort items that your child usually has to sleep comfortably and you take the time to ensure their needs are met for a successful sleep over.


  1. Don’t over-schedule or be afraid to say no.

Generally for those travelling far from home to visit family, there are a lot of people to see, which often comes with a lot of pressure to spend “enough” time with everyone. Be realistic, travelling with kids isn’t always simple, and kids need a break from all the interaction with new people and people they don’t see that often. If possible, try and arrange it so most family can be in one place and you have less travel to commit to. Also don’t be afraid to say no, when you just can’t do it. It’s not fun visiting with family when everyone is overly tired and in a bad mood!


  1. Travel time.

Depending on how far/long you’re travelling, you may be able to schedule your travel time during nap time. While it is junk sleep, it is better than no sleep, so at least you kids can get some nap time in if you have a full day of events planned.


  1. Creating a good sleep environment.

If you’re staying overnight, make sure that the place your kids are going to be sleeping is conducive to sleep. So if you are bringing a play pen for your baby or toddler, bring familiar sheets, blankets and/or sleep sacs, story book(s) and lovey, if you child uses one. Be sure that it is dark enough when you are putting your kids down for a nap during the day. If you think it’s going to be too light, remember that garbage bags and duct tape are a cheap and effective solution anywhere. If you are concerned it will be too loud where you are staying, or that the noises in the new room you’ll be staying in will be bothersome, don’t forget to bring your white noise machine, especially if this is something that your child uses on a nightly basis.


  1. Room sharing.

Chances are you may be room sharing with your young children. People worry about how well their child will sleep if they are room sharing over the holidays. Don’t sweat it, but you can keep your pajamas outside the room so that you can get ready in the washroom while your child is still sleeping later in the evening when you are finally ready to retire for the night. This way you won’t be turning on lights or shuffling around in the room increasing the chances of waking your sleeping kids.


  1. Have Fun!

This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! So make sure you’re having a good time and don’t worry too much if you do get off your child’s normal routine. There will be plenty of time to get back to normal when the holidays are over, and most kids get back on track in a few days to about a week.

Tips to handle Your Baby’s Grossly Early Morning Wake Ups


You were so excited and happy to welcome your bundle of joy into the world! While getting the nursery ready, sleep and sleep needs were probably not a top of mind issue. However, now that you’re baby’s arrived and you’ve been trying to get your baby better sleep habits and a good routine, maybe you have a child that likes to rise before the sun, and expects everyone else the start the day with him? If your child is waking up too early there are a few things to ask before deciding how to deal with the issue.

  1. Is baby really waking up too early?

Next we have to reasonable about what timing is actually too early. Generally, anytime between 6:00 and 8:00 am is a reasonable wake up time. However, in some cases a 5:30 am wake up time is so close to 6:00 am there is little that can be done to adjust or encourage a much later wake up time with your child, unless they are at an age where they can understand rules and expectations and is generally around the age of 2.5 years old. For some 5:30 am is perfectly fine because they have to get up early to commute to work. For others, anything before 6:00 am is painful, and it’s time to see what can be done about the issue.


  1. Is baby getting enough sleep in the day?

Often times super early wake ups, multiple night wakings, and poor sleep habits in general may be attributed to the fact that you baby is not getting their daily recommended amount of sleep. You can refer to the National Sleep Foundation’s website to see what the average daily recommended amount of sleep is based on age here. If you add up the hours in the day that your child is sleeping and you’re coming up short, chances are that without any surprise to you, your baby isn’t getting enough sleep and the sleep debt is causing your early morning problems.


  1. Is bedtime too late?

A reasonable bedtime for most babies and pre-school aged children is between 6:00 to 8:00 pm. However, your baby may only be able to tolerate a certain amount of awake time between sleep periods and this will determine what the best timing for bed is. In general, if you child is still napping during the day, all naps should be ended by 4:00 pm. Babies that are between 4-6M will be able to last 2-3 hrs between the end of their last nap and bedtime, those that are between 6-9M will be able to last between 3 to 3.5 hrs and as babies approach 12M they start being able to last up to 4 hrs between the end of their last nap and bedtime. If your baby’s bedtime is within the above time frames, but your little one is still waking up too early then it is reasonable to offer an even earlier bedtime. In some cases that may be a bedtime as early as 5:00 or 5:30 pm. This always seems to alarm parents, who assume that if their baby goes to bed so early, then they are likely to wake up even earlier. However, less day sleep, means there is opportunity to make up for it at night time, particularly if your baby also isn’t napping well.

  1. Is bedtime too early?

Rarely is this the issue, and only after ensuring that nap times are occurring at the proper times should you consider shifting bedtime later, in small increments, very gradually. Often times making bedtime later can aggravate the sleep debt further and lead to earlier wake up times and/or multiple night time wakings. If this is something that you plan to do once nap times appear to be in order, then the recommendation would be to shift bedtime later in 15 min increments every 3-4 days to see if it is having an impact on wake up time.


  1. Is baby getting enough nap time during the day?

Depending on your baby’s age, the number of naps required along with the timing will vary. For babies between 4-7M of age, they should definitely be napping once in the morning and once in the afternoon, with the option for a 3rd cap nap depending on the length and quality of the earlier naps that day. All the sleep books recommend the best timing for the sleep waves being between 9:00-10:00 am for nap 1 and sometime between 12:00-2:00 for the afternoon nap. Again, all naps should be capped by 4:00 pm so as not to interfere with bed-timing.


  1. Are nap times off?

Nap timing itself deserves it’s own written piece. However, as stated above, there are times where the sleep waves are most likely to take place. Often times the timing between the end of the last nap and bedtime may be too much, which leads to the accumulation of a sleep debt. Also for children that are still taking a third cat nap, the cat nap isn’t truly restorative, so when you are seeing early wakings and your baby still has a 3rd cat nap, it’s time to scrap the nap, and ensure bedtime isn’t too late after the end of the second nap. Generally, babies 6M to 9M should be able to last 3-3.5 hrs from end of last nap to bedtime and around 9-12M babies start being able to last about 4 hrs from the end of their last nap to bedtime. This is where it gets tricky, because a lot of families don’t want to try the early bedtime and as a result baby continues to be overtired.


  1. Are you reinforcing the early wakings?

Of course, if your baby is experiencing out of character early morning wake ups and you begin to attend to them you will be reinforcing them. While you may feel the need to respond to your child, keep interaction to a minimum, and avoid offering the first meal of the day too soon as this can also reinforce the early morning wake up.   If you have previously done behavioral intervention with your child, you may use the same method to deal with the early morning wake up as you had with protest to bedtime or other middle of the night wake ups. Don’t allow your child to get up for the day until it is actually time to do so, and when it is time to wake up, make a big deal out of it! Lights on, sing-songy voice and be dramatic about it, so that you child makes the connection.

Ultimately, early morning wake ups will result in and are also a sign of not getting enough sleep. They can often be brought on by developmental milestones as well as changing sleep requirements. Relieving the situation almost always involves implementing an earlier bedtime, but what wins out time and time again, is sticking to your scheduled age appropriate nap times and being consistent in the expectations that you have for your child. It often involves time and patience, but consistency in any habits you want your children to learn is key factor to a successful outcome.

Preparing Your Child for “Falling Back”


We all know that a lot of time and effort goes into introducing and maintaining a healthy sleep routine. For some of us, the beginning or ending of Daylight Savings Time (DST) can add another challenge to keeping our kids’ sleep routines in check. This year, Sunday November 2nd, marks the end of DST, and here are some tips to help you prepare your child and make the time transition as smooth as possible.

Since we will be “falling back”, if your baby usually wakes at 6:00 or 7:00 am, they will wake up at 5:00 or 6:00 am instead because that is what their internal biological clock is used to doing. You can help you child adjust better to the time change by pushing bed and mealtimes back in 15 min increments on a daily basis a few days before.

• On October 30th, delay all meals* and sleep times by 15 min
• On October 31st, delay all meals* and sleep routines by 30 min
• On November 1st, delay all meals* and sleep routines by 45 min
• On November 2nd (end of DST), have all meals and sleep times happen according to your normal schedule.

* This isn’t always possible due to scheduled daily activities like school or other lessons.

Other things to keep in mind:

• Despite the earlier bedtimes, as you are preparing for the end of DST, your child may not fall asleep until his/her usual bedtime. However, you will be encouraging him/her to relax a little earlier so that when the time shift occurs his/her body is prepared for it.
• I caution people from just keeping their children up later hoping they’ll wear themselves out. This leads to over-tiredness, which is likely to make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
• For toddlers who notice that it is still light outside once the time change occurs, a few things can be done:
(a) Ensure that the room is as dark as possible during sleep periods by using room darkening shades or curtains.
(b) Use of a lamp on a timer, a Gro-clock, or similar device, can help explain to children what time they are expected to go to sleep and what time it is ok to get up for the day. Remember that if you are using one of these devices, to also adjust the timers on them as you are preparing for the time change!
• It usually takes about a week for all things to iron out after the time change occurs, but you can help things along by exposing your child to as much fresh air and natural sunlight during their waking hours to help “reset” their biological clock.  This way when they come inside to a slightly darker environment, their bodies will be “primed” for sleep.
• Finally, having a consistent routine on a daily basis is going to be the most important factor in helping your child adjust to the time change!

Thinking of Dropping Your Child’s Nap? Think Again.


Perhaps it’s because my own child is about 2.5 years old now, that all the parental conversation around sleep seems to be gravitating from how to get them to sleep through the night, to how do you get over the bedtime battles? Recently, in a few different circles, my friends have been telling each other about how the bedtime battles are getting out of control.  Routines get dragged out every night, the manipulation and negotiating is getting more complex, and they just aren’t going to sleep on their own anymore.  And then someone suggests it.  “…I think it’s time to drop the day time nap.”

So how do you know if this is key to solving your little one’s problem?

First, it’s important (or at least helpful) to know what the recommended amount of sleep is for your child.  Note that for toddlers aged 1-3 years it is 12-14 hours (typically 10-12 overnight and the rest made up in a nap), and 11-13 hours for preschoolers aged 3-5 years.  Before you make the decision to cut that nap, will your child still be getting the recommended amount of sleep for children his/her age? There is an agreement among my sleep consulting colleagues to encourage naps until kids go to school.  The better rested kids are, the better they learn and play with each other.  However, kids may drop their day time nap anytime between the ages of 3-5 years old.  We want to maintain and preserve the nap as long as possible, but not at the expense of consolidated night time sleep.  When your toddler/preschooler isn’t falling asleep at their normal bedtime (ideally anytime between 6:00 and 8:00 pm), but is still taking long restorative naps, it does make sense to ask whether or not things about that nap can be changed to improve night time sleep.  If this is the case with your child, here are a couple of things to try before deciding to drop that nap altogether.

  • What time is the nap happening?  All the literature suggests that the ideal window for children taking one daily nap starts between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm.  A one hour nap is still considered restorative, but often times children napping only once a day may nap as long as 2-3 hours or longer.  If your child’s nap starts at/or after 2:00 pm, consider offering an earlier nap time closer to 1:00 pm.
  • How long is the nap? Cap the nap at 4:00 pm.  Children this age will be able to last at least 4 hours from the end of their nap until bedtime.  So if bedtime is 8:00 pm,  you don’t want to allow the nap to go past that.  If this doesn’t have an effect, then begin capping the nap earlier, but allow your child to still get at least one hour of nap time in.

Having a consistent routine really is key to overcoming most of the issues around bedtime battles.  If you are consistent and are not doing anything to reinforce behaviors that are dragging out bedtime routine, it is worth tweaking your nap timing when consolidated night time sleep is threatened, before dropping the nap altogether.




Still Hungover from Springing Forward?


It’s been a couple weeks since Daylight Savings Time on March 9, 2014 where we moved our clocks forward.  In my opinion, this time change usually isn’t that big of a deal, especially since one of the biggest complaints from parents of many young children is that they wake up too early.  However, this time change can be particularly problematic for some toddlers and young children and may become more difficult as the days get longer and the sun is out later!  So what do to?  The first thing you have to ask yourself is what exactly is the problem?  Is it bedtime battles, multiple night time wakings, earlier morning wakings, or something else? Here are some tips to get back on track:

1. Review your Routines

The most important tool you have to win the “bedtime battles” is a consistent routine.  Understand that your routine may change as your child gets older, but a few basic steps that happen around the same time every night are a clear way for your child to learn what to expect next and what is expected of him/her.  Keep your routine relatively simple, and under 30 min if you can.

2. Have a Family Huddle

As parents, decide exactly what your expectations are of your child(ren).  Then discuss with your child(ren) and set some rules and expectations around sleep. For example: no talking and stay in bed.  Get them involved in taking ownership of the rules by creating a sticker chart or poster of how well they can follow the rules over the next few weeks.

3. Manage the Manipulation

Toddlers learn quickly to negotiate and come up with ways to drag out the bedtime routine.  So consider what excuses your child may conjure up  and have solutions before they become a problem.  If you are able to point out that those needs have been met, then you won’t worry about whether or not your child is just playing you.

4.  Time and Time again

Introducing a clock also helps young children to understand when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to get up.  The clock should be introduced in the family huddle and there are a number of different special toddler alarm clocks on the market that help kids visually understand when it is ok to get up if they don’t know all their numbers yet.

5. Empowering and Encouraging

The best way to encourage the behaviors we want to see is by praising our kids for the good behavior and sometimes you have to “catch” them doing good.  Be sure to tell them how proud you are of them when they do follow the rules.  When they don’t follow the rules, consequences do have to follow.  However, you can empower them by letting them know that the consequences they’re dealing with are because of the choices they made today and tomorrow they have the power to make the right decisions about following the rules.

Getting together as a family to clearly outline the expectations around sleep can really help everyone adhere to the routines that encourage toddlers and young children to get the quality sleep they need.  If you have difficulty implementing your plan, a Child Sleep Consultant can have a deeper look into your situation and create a sleep plan that will get everyone sleeping well.

Time Zone Travel Tips for Managing Sleep on Vacation


If you live in Atlantic Canada, chances are you have family that lives 1 to 3 time zones west of here.  Recently, I received a question on my Sunday Night Sleep Q&A about dealing with the effects of jet lag and how to prepare for it.  I try not to reinvent the wheel when I can help it, but there was no good quick and easy reference for this concerned parent.  So here is some information about managing travel between time zones. My first word of advice, no matter which direction you are travelling, is to allow for flexibility on your travel day.  Don’t expect your child to sleep at exactly the times he/she normally would, and don’t get anxious about your child not being in bed by EXACTLY 6:30 PM! Most of these tips can also be applied to daylight savings time too.

Travelling West

  • Try to keep your child awake until his/her normal bedtime.  Obviously, this won’t happen right away if you are crossing 3 time zones, so it will have to happen gradually over 2-3 nights and may take an additional night or two for your child to adjust.
  • Expect your child to wake up earlier than usual the first couple days as he/she is adjusting.  You will likely wake up earlier too.  Allow for some flexibility there. Attend to your child, because you know if you traveled 3 time zones, it isn’t realistic to ignore him/her for 3 hrs.
  • Try to stick with your child’s nap schedule as much as possible.  Your child is likely going to show sleepy signs “earlier” than usual.  Try and hold him/her off until the clock in your new time zone matches the time that your child would normally nap.  If it’s a 3 hour difference, you may only be able to hold your child off for a maximum of 30 minutes a day and it may take a few days to adjust.
  • You can help your child adjust to the time zone that you’re in by exposing him/her to natural light during the times that he/she is supposed to be awake.
  • To make the transition easier, you might want to try moving your child’s  nap and bedtimes a little later than usual a few days before you travel (15-30 min increments is usually helpful).  This can help your child adapt sooner to the new time zone once you arrive.
  • If you have a short trip (a few days), you may just choose to let your child continue to do what they normally do in their “natural” time zone.  Keep in mind once you get home, your child should adjust to his/her normal routine within a few days of consistency.

Traveling East

  • Traveling east normally seems a little easier on people. You may find that your child isn’t ready to sleep until a little later for the first few days, so be flexible with that.  That being said, having a strong routine may help you move bedtime up in 15-30 min increments to get your child back on track.  Strong bedtime routines trigger the body to get sleepy too if they’re close enough to bedtime.
  • Wake your child up at the time that you normally would in the morning to get their body adjusted to the time that they should be awake, and avoid letting them sleep in if you can.  Again, exposure to sunlight, will help shift your child’s biological clock and circadian rhythms to match the time zone that you’re in.
  • If your child wakes up later than normal, it’s foreseeable that your child may also want to nap later too.  If you wake them up at the time that they normally would, then keeping the naps at the time they should be happening on the clock will be easier too.  Try and keep them as close as possible to their “normal” time.  If you are traveling over more than one time zone, you may need to shift the nap times in 15-30 minute increments to help your child adjust.
  • If you are traveling over more than one time zone and it will be for more than a few days, you may want to help prepare your child for the adjustment by making bedtime earlier a few days before your travel.
  • As stated earlier, if your trip is only a few days, you really don’t need to do very much.  Consistency of your regular routines will keep your child on track.

Crossing Oceans

  • Travel of this kind is generally more than a 4 hour time difference.  As mentioned above, if you travel west, your child will be waking up and going to sleep earlier than usual, and if you are traveling east, your child will be waking up and going to sleep later than usual.
  • You can’t force your child to sleep when his/her body isn’t ready for it.  However, you can stretch your child’s wakeful periods.  Yes, you will risk him/her becoming overtired, but natural sunlight exposure will help shift your child’s circadian rhythms to that of the new time zone.
  • To further help shift the body’s circadian rhythm, you should wake up your child at the time that they should be awake in the new time zone.  Discouraging him/her to sleep according to the old time zone will encourage sleep during appropriate times in the new time zone.
  • Don’t be surprised or discouraged if your child wants to sleep most of the first day of your arrival and be up all night. It will likely take a few days, but eventually your child will adapt.  Just go with it! If you all need a nap, then take one! Remember, you’re on vacation, so make the best of your time!  Have fun and relax!

Long Car Rides – Are we there, yet?

  • Long car rides can be a nightmare for all members of the family.  If you have little ones, take a break every 2-3 hrs during the day to allow for diaper changes, washroom breaks, snacks, and some stretching/physical activity.
  • The old tricks and techniques our parents used to pass time still work – singing songs, 20 questions, I spy, reading and/or colouring books, magnetic board games, counting the number of different license plates, and talking about all the fun and exciting things you’ll do when you arrive at your destination.
  • Technology also helps keep kids in the back from bothering one another and making you really consider turning around and going home!  Portable video players and games for older kids will keep them occupied when the driver really needs silence to concentrate on the road. When traveling at night, avoid TV as the light from the screen will interfere with melatonin production ( when you want your kids to be sleeping.

Where ever you are going and whatever you are doing, know that your child will adapt to the new time zone.  Try and stick with your routine as much as possible, and be flexible when necessary. Know that your child will also adapt when you return home.  Happy travels!

What are some of your favorite ways to pass time during the long car drives?



More information can be read from the following “Sleep Bibles:”

Ferber, R. (1985) Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. New York, NY: Fireside.

Sears, W. et al. (2005) The Baby Sleep Book. New York, NY: Little, Brown & Company.

Weissbluth, M. (1987) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Weissbluth, M. (2003) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. 3rd Edition. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

West, K. & Kenen, J. (2010) The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy. Philadelphia, PA: Vanguard Press.