Parents everywhere are starting to think “how the heck am I going to navigate daylight savings fall back with my kiddos?” Maybe you are also reminiscing about when the time change meant you got an extra hour of sleep – HA!
Before I was a sleep coach, I MAJORLY bumbled this with my boys! We were all waking at an ungodly hour. Let’s help you not make the same mistakes I made!
First, let’s look at how the end of daylight savings time can affect our children.
When the time change happens and we set the clock back one hour, it doesn’t adjust our children’s internal clocks. This means if your munchkins are accustomed to getting up at 6:30 am, their new wakeup time is 5:30 am. Gulp.
Many of the families I work with are asking what they can to help their children to sleep later, not wake earlier! To add insult to injury, the earlier wake time can throw off both naps and bedtime. This can result in a cycle of your child being overtired and cranky. Oh yeah…it can also kick up a fun case of bedtime battles, night waking and difficult naps. Not fun.
So what should you do?
Choose from one of the three following strategies, which are based on your child’s current sleep patterns and his or her sleep flexibility. Choosing the right strategy can help you to navigate the end of Daylight Savings Time and help keep your little one well rested through the time change.
Strategy #1: Stay the course
Which child will benefit from this strategy?
- Your baby or toddler sleeps well and is flexible
- Your child is sleeping too late
If your child easily adapts to change and is a champion sleeper, you may not need to make any schedule adjustments. Stay on your existing schedule times after the time change. For example, if your baby or toddler goes to bed at 7 pm, you’ll want to keep that bedtime after the change. This will result in stretching your child a little bit – what was previously 8:00 pm. Within a few days after the time change, your child should likely adapt to the new schedule. Your child may have a couple of off sleep days, but should get back on track quickly.
This is also a great strategy for a child who loves to sleep in and you’d like your child to wake earlier. The time change will bump their wake time one hour earlier.
Strategy #2: Slow and steady
Which child will benefit from this strategy?
- Your child is sleeping well, but is not flexible
- Your child wakes too early
- Your baby is 8 months or younger
Did you child transition well with Daylight Savings Time in the spring? Does your child have a tough time adjusting to sleep schedule changes? If you answered yes, you’ll want to look at making slow and steady progress of adjusting your child’s schedule.
Also, if your child is a perpetual early bird – waking before 6:00 am – or 8 months old or younger, they’ll also benefit from a gradual shift.
You’ll start moving your child’s entire sleep schedule forward by 10-15 minutes every 1-2 days in the 7-10 days leading up to the time change. The thought being that by the time change, your child will be fully transitioned to the same schedule even though the time changed.
For example, if your child currently wakes at 6:30 am and you’d like to keep this wake time, start by moving the schedule later (wake time, naps and bedtime). With the slow and stead change, she will begin waking at 7:30 am by the time change. When the time change finishes, your child should be waking up around 6:30 am and she won’t have any major impact to her schedule that will result in sleep falling apart.
Strategy #3: Meet in the middle
Who will benefit from this strategy?
- Parents who don’t have the time (or patience!) for a gradual change
Essentially, you will move your child’s entire schedule forward by 20-30 minutes in the 2-3 days leading up to the time change. Once the time change is complete, you only have a 30-minute sleep delta to work through. After the time change, begin working on moving your little one to the same schedule. You can do this by introducing sleep at the normal times. Within a week or so after the time change, your child should move back to their original wake time and original schedule before the time change.
A couple of additional tips and tricks:
- The sun is your friend for adjusting internal clocks. Exposure to sunlight is the most effective tool at resetting to the new time. I recommend getting out for an early morning stroll with your cherubs in the few days after the time change.
- Optimize your child’s sleep environment to ensure it is dark – this article provides tips and tricks on achieving optimal darkness. This will also help to reset your child’s internal clock.
- Ensure that you are shifting all aspects of your routine later. This includes feedings, naps and bedtime so everything falls into the new schedule.
- Be patient. Young children love consistency so it may take a week or so to fully adapt no matter which strategy you choose.