Heidi Johnson, MD
Gradually shift bedtime to an earlier time. If your child usually goes to bed at 8 pm, plan in advance to start heading to bed sooner. Four days before, tuck him or her in around 7:45 pm. Three days before, bump it back to 7:30.pm. and so on. This method ensures your child will be in bed an hour earlier, so the lost hour won't affect him or her as much. If possible, wake your child up earlier as well to ensure he/she is tired by the time the earlier bedtime rolls around.
Control light exposure before bedtime. Shut off electronics and the TV 30 minutes before bedtime, and use small lamps instead of the main bedroom light to help with falling asleep. In the morning, expose your child to as much light as possible, as soon as possible. Open a window, turn on the overhead lights or have your child go outside with you for a few minutes before breakfast.
Keep the afternoon nap short and sweet. If your child still takes an afternoon nap, don't let them sleep longer than normal. You may have to wake them up so they don't sleep too long. A shorter nap may mean a sooner bedtime.
Stick to a routine. An adjusted bedtime may throw your child off enough, so make sure you create and stick to a routine at night. A consistent system before bed sends a powerful signal for sleeping time and may help your child fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer.
Be flexible with internal clocks and sympathetic with behavior. All the preparation in the world may still end up with your child not falling asleep until his or her normal time. Some kids don't have a flexible clock and may fight the time change, regardless of what you do ahead of time. This may cause some behavioral changes, but they will more than likely only last a week or so.