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Your child’s sleep and Daylight Savings Time

Get ready to fall back!

by Adriana Lozada 
When trying to figure out your child’s sleep patterns, there’s always something to keep you on your toes: teething, colds, growth spruts, developmental milestones. And then there’s Daylight Savings Time changes. While the first ones show up nilly-willy, leaving little time for preparation, you know exactly when DST is going to hit. And you can be ready for it.

Next Sunday, November 2nd, you will wake up having to turn your clocks back one hour.

Newborns and younger babies who don’t have a well established biological clock probably won’t be affected by the time change, but older babies, toddler and children are more likely to be thrown off by the drastic switch.Here are 4 ways you can help your child (or children) adjust to the time change:
Clock Mosaic
Adapted image from H is for Home. CC BY-NC 2.0.

1. Starting before Daylight Savings ends

Starting 3 days before DST ends, move your child’s bedtime back about 15 minutes. If you have a daily routine in place, adjust your wake-up time and nap times that day as well. Continue to shift everything 15 minutes later every day, until you’ve adjusted it by 60 minutes. This way, you will have shifted your baby’s schedule ahead by one hour by the time you have to move your clock back one hour. Voila! You’ll be back in synch when the time changes.
If your feel your child is more sensitive and will need more days to adjust, you can work in 10 minute increments starting 5 days before. If you feel your child will adjust more easily, then do 20 min. increments, starting 2 days before.
For example, if your child has a 7 pm bedtime, and you want to adjust in 15 min. increments, do the following:

On Thursday, October 30th

  • Wake-up  and nap times 15 min. later than usual
  • Bedtime of 7:15 pm

On Friday, October 31st

  • Wake-up  and nap times 30 min. later than usual (15 min. later than the day before)
  • Bedtime of 7:30 pm

On Saturday, November 1st

  • Wake-up  and nap times 45 min. later than usual (15 min. later than the day before)
  • Bedtime of 7:45 pm

On Sunday, November 2nd

  • Follow the clock: you’re back on track! (if the time hadn’t changed, all you nap times and bedtime would be 60 min. later than usual)

2. Making adjustments after Daylight Savings ends

If you’d rather make adjustments after DST has passed, you’ll probably find that your child will wake up one hour “earlier” on Sunday (based on the clock). From that moment on, shift your child’s nap and bedtimes to about 45 minutes earlier than his/her regular schedule. The next day, make it 30 minutes earlier. 15 minutes earlier the third day, and “on time” for the final day. If your feel your child will need more time to adjust, you can adjust the timing in 10 minute increments, knowing that you won’t be “on time” for about a week. If you feel your child will adjust more easily, then do 20 min. increments, and you’ll be done in about 3 days. This method is a bit rougher than the previous one, because the first time interval is the much longer and you’ll be waking up about an hour earlier on Sunday.
For example, if your child has a 7 pm bedtime, and you want to adjust in 15 min. increments, do the following:

On Sunday, November 2nd

  • Your child will wake up about 1 hr. earlier than usual
  • Make naps 45 min earlier than usual
  • Bedtime of 6:15 pm

On Monday, November 3rd

  • Your child will wake up about 45 min. earlier than usual
  • Make naps 30 min earlier than usual
  • Bedtime of 6:30 pm

On Tuesday, November 4th

  • Your child will wake up about 30 min. earlier than usual
  • Make naps 15 min earlier
  • Bedtime of 6:45 pm

On Wednesday, November 5th

  • Your child will wake up about 15 min. earlier than usual
  • Go back to your usual nap times
  • Bedtime of 7 pm: you’re back on track!

3. Immediate transition – a.k.a. Cold Turkey

This (seasonally) appropriately named approach involves following your child’s schedule based on the clock. Following the clock change, you switch your child ‘cold turkey’ to the new time. This is a bit harder on everyone, and works best for children that are very adaptable to changes and are not hugely affected by being overtired. For a few days your child may be a mess, so be mindful that you may need to adjust nap times and bedtimes a bit anyway until your baby settles into the new routine.

4. Who needs clocks? – a.k.a. Do Nothing

Of course, there’s always the option of just rolling with the change. If your newborn doesn’t have a strong cyrcadian rhythm (can’t tell between night and day), or your child doesn’t have a regular bedtime or consistent timing for naps, then your life won’t be much affected by the time change. Continue as you were!

Which approach do you think will work best for your family? Let me know in the comments!

Adriana Lozada

Comments

Amanda

We adjusted a week early mostly because baby K suddenly jumped her schedule “back” by herself.

Adriana Lozada

Ah! She’s keeping you on your toes! At least you are already on track. 🙂

Beth

I tried adjusting my 7 months old girl a week ahead of time. Now, instead of getting up at 7am and going to bed at 7:30pm, she’s getting up at 7am and going to bed at 8:30pm. Essentially all I’ve accomplished is stealing an hour of sleep from her. When time changes tonight, she’s just going to wake up at 6am tomorrow. Any ideas?

Adriana Lozada

It seems like she has a very strong biological clock! Since consistency is key, your week of adjustment has not necessarily been wasted. Your baby may just needs more time to get her circadian rhythm to adapt to the change. Having started a week in advance will hopefully mean fewer mornings waking at 6 am as her completes the adjustment.
Here’s something you could try to get her to sleep longer in the morning: try to be nearby as soon as she begins to stir, and do what you think would work best (shushing, patting, hand on chest, etc.) to help her extend her sleep instead of becoming more awake. (I don’t know where she sleeps, where you sleep, what your wake-up routine looks like, how much sleep she’s getting during the day, at night, and overall, and so many other variables that it’s hard to give more specifics).
I’m curious: when did you start adjusting her bedtime, and what was the length of the increments?
Wishing you the best of luck this week!

Beth

I actually started adjusting her 12 days ahead at 5 min increments because i know how sensitive she can be. Was this maybe too subtle? Before adjusting, she was sleeping 7:30pm to 7:00am with no significant night waking. She might wake for a minute or two but typically puts herself back to sleep with no intervention. She’s in a crib in her own room but we share a bedroom wall and I’m a light sleeper (I have a video monitor so I can check on her). She takes two 1.5 hour naps and usually a 20-30 min catnap between 4-5pm (she may be dropping this soon). Do you think she’s getting too much sleep? Sometimes she’ll wake 10-15 mins before 7, in which case I leave her be and do a dramatic wake up right at 7 (open blinds, say good morning, change diaper, nurse). This week has been tough because I’ve continued to leave her be playing in her crib until it was time to get up. 15 mins is one thing, but today she woke at 7:05 and I wasn’t supposed to get her up until 8am. Am I right to leave her? If I go in to intervene after 6am she just gets super excited and it wakes her up even more. Thanks for any advice you can offer! 🙂

Adriana Lozada

She seems to be doing great, and getting just the right amount of sleep! You seem to have laid down a wonderful sleep foundation, so kudos to you! Question: Why were you waiting until 8 am if her usual wake time is 7? (If she’s happy and hanging out, you can certainly leave her in her crib until wake-up time and do your wake-up routine.)

Beth

I was adjusting her schedule for daylight savings and that was the last morning (Saturday) before the time change. So 8am on that day would be 7am the following day. It is now 4 days since the time change and she is still waking between 5:50 to 6:15 every morning. I’m consistently waiting until 7 to get her up and trying to get her to her usual 7:30 bedtime. Should I just stick to this plan or accept that 6 is her new wake up time? Thanks.

Adriana Lozada

If she’s continued to consistently wake around 6 am, then that’s probably her new waking time. But then you should adjust the whole schedule accordingly. Feel free to email me if you want more in-depth info!