Autumn is officially upon us, and as we watch the days getting shorter and shorter, we at least have one thing to look forward to: Daylight Saving Time ending, when we can enjoy a well-earned hour of extra sleep. But, here's the downside...for parents this can be a stressful event, especially if your child is an early riser.
If you are one of these parents, spending some time planning how you will adjust your child’s schedule should be at the top of your list. With a little planning, your child (and you!) can transition easily to the new time. According to our Tinyhood Certified Sleep Expert, there are two main ways you can attempt to navigate this change. Before we get into what each of those is, it’s important you set yourself up for success.
Preparing for the Time Change
- Make sure your child is well-rested going into the day of the time change. Fill their “sleep tank” during the day by giving them ample opportunities to nap.
- At the new wake up time, turn the lights on, open the shades, and expose your child to light. This will help their internal clock reset.
- Since the sun will be rising earlier, you may want to invest in room darkening shades to keep little ones asleep until at least 6 am.
- If you use a wake-up light or clock, make sure to adjust the time appropriately.
So now, let’s talk about our options when it comes to tackling Daylight Saving Time ending.
Option #1: Do Nothing
That’s right. You have the option to follow your regular schedule the day the clock changes. If the baby normally has lunch at noon, they continue to eat lunch at noon. If they normally go to bed at 7 pm, they continue to go to bed when the clock says it’s 7 pm. This method may mean wake-up times could be a bit off for a few days, but their body will adjust. Just remember, to not start the day earlier than 6 am. If your child wakes before 6 am, remind them that it is still sleepy time. Come 6 am, you can come in again with a dramatic wake-up. Turn the lights on, open the shades, sing a good morning song, and begin your day. This method works best for children with flexible, easy temperaments, who are not as sensitive to being overtired.
Option #2: Gradual Adjustment
Another option is to gradually adjust your child’s schedule leading up to the time change. This method works well for children who are sensitive to being overtired, dislike schedule or routine changes or are normally early risers. About a week before Daylight Saving Time ends, start putting your child to bed 15 minutes later than their normal bedtime. Every few nights, push their bedtime another 15 minutes. By the time the clock changes, you will have shifted your child’s bedtime by an hour and will be back to their normal schedule.
So for example, if your child normally goes to bed at 7 pm, start putting them to bed at 7:15 about a week before the time change. Then, every few nights, extend their bedtime by 15 minutes (7:30, then 7:45) until they are going to bed at 8:00 the night of the time change. Once you set the clock back, your child will be back on their normal schedule. You can also shift naptime by 15-minute increments as well.
The good news is, no matter how you choose to prepare, your child will adjust, oftentimes in less than a week. Be patient and stay consistent and soon everyone will be back on their normal schedules.
For more tips on navigating common sleep issues, check out our class Sleep 101: A Guide to Infant and Newborn Sleep.
About the Author
Jennifer D is a certified Sleep Consultant with more than 20 years of hands-on experience in early childhood education. As a Gentle Sleep Coach, Jennifer‘s philosophy serves as an alternative for parents who resist the cry it out method. Her step-by-step method has a 95% success rate when the child is healthy and the parents are consistent.