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Your child’s sleep and Daylight Savings Time

Time to spring forward!

by Adriana Lozada 

Even though it it’s still snowing in this part of the world, spring is just around the corner. Longer days also mean Daylight Savings Time changes, and that can certainly wreak havoc with your child’s sleeping patterns. Here’s some ways you can prepare and minimize the effects.

Next Sunday, March 8th, you will wake up having to turn your clocks forward 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.

Early riser? You’re in luck!

If you have a particularly early riser, take advantage of this clock change! When the clock springs forward, the usual 6 am will be 7 am. Let her sleep “in”, and make her bedtime one hour later according to the clock. So if your child had a bedtime of 6 pm, then switch it with the clock to 7 pm. Biologically, she won’t know the difference, but according to the clock she will no longer be waking so early. Win-win.


Here are 4 ways you can help your child (or children) adjust to the time change:

spiral clock
centralasian, CC Attribution 2.0 License

1. Starting before Daylight Savings begins

Starting 3 days before DST starts, move your child’s bedtime up 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 earlier every day, until you’ve adjusted it by 60 minutes. This way, you will have shifted your baby’s schedule to one hour earlier by the time you have to move your clock forward 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, March 5th

  • Wake-up  and nap times 15 min. earlier than usual
  • Bedtime of 6:45 pm

On Friday, March 6th

  • Wake-up  and nap times 30 min. earlier than usual (15 min. earlier than the day before)
  • Bedtime of 6:30 pm

On Saturday, March 7th

  • Wake-up  and nap times 45 min. earlier than usual (15 min. earlier than the day before)
  • Bedtime of 6:15 pm

On Sunday, March 8th

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

2. Making adjustments after Daylight Savings starts

If you’d rather make adjustments after DST has begun, you’ll probably find that your child will wake up one hour “later” on Sunday (based on the clock). From that moment on, shift your child’s nap and bedtimes to about 45 minutes later than his/her regular schedule. The next day, make it 30 minutes later. 15 minutes later 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 a much longer leap and you’ll be waking up about an hour later 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, March 8th

  • Your child will wake up about 1 hr. later than usual
  • Make naps 45 min later than usual
  • Bedtime of 7:45 pm

On Monday, March 9th

  • Your child will wake up about 45 min. later than usual
  • Make naps 30 min later than usual
  • Bedtime of 7:30 pm

On Tuesday, March 10th

  • Your child will wake up about 30 min. later than usual
  • Make naps 15 min later
  • Bedtime of 7:15 pm

On Wednesday, March 11th

  • Your child will wake up about 15 min. later 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 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 circadian 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