Before having kids, I remember rejoicing about the ‘extra hour’ of sleep we got by ‘falling back’ each year. Too bad kids don’t seem to understand what an extra hour of sleep means! But don’t fret I’m here to help you through this upcoming change. In case you missed it, the daylight savings time change is happening THIS weekend!
If I had my way, I would not do daylight savings time for a couple of reasons. First, the reasons daylight saving time was originally implemented (during World War I to conserve energy) is no longer a compelling reason to continue with this time changing nonsense. Second, changing the time really does affect the sleep patterns of children and adults! Even when we ‘fall back’ it can be very disruptive to our sleep patterns.
So, let’s talk about how to handle daylight savings time in order to have it be as least disruptive to our children’s sleep as possible.
#1 Leave the clocks alone.
This one is actually for you, parents! On Saturday night leave the clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After you get your coffee, then go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me!
Since smartphones update automatically, try to rely on a clock you have to set manually or set your phone to not automatically update the time under your “Date & Time” settings.
#2 Split the difference
Adjust your child’s naps and bedtime to 30 minutes earlier for the first three days following the time change. Keep in mind that this will FEEL like 30 minutes LATER to your child. Let’s say your child usually naps at 12:30 PM and goes to bed at 7PM. I recommend putting that child down for her nap at 12:00PM and then to bed at 6:30 PM for three days (feels like 7:30 to your child!). It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule.
On the fourth day, adjust your child’s naps and bedtime back in line with the clock.
#3 Be Patient
It is going to take roughly one week for your child’s body (and yours, too) to adjust to ‘falling back’. We notice the impact of the time change more in little children because they tend to be more structured with going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
#4 Darkness Rules
Make sure you have a good set of blackout shades. Once you adjust back to ‘clock’ time, help your child continue to sleep until the normal time per their clock by making sure their room stays dark when the sun starts to rise an hour earlier!
#5 Adjusting Wake Up Times
For toddlers over the age of 2, use an ‘ok to wake’ clock. Set the clock forward 30 minutes so that at 6:30 it says 7:00 AM and let them get up a little earlier than normal for the first few days after the time change. After you adjust their bedtime back to their normal time, adjust their ok-to-wake clock time back so they will be on track and sleep until their normal wake up time.
Babies, unfortunately, won’t understand an ‘ok to wake’ clock, so you get to be their clock! When you hear your baby waking up, do not rush in! You don’t want to send a message that getting up at 6:00 AM is now okay. So, if baby normally wakes at 7:00, but is now up at 6:00, you will wait 10 minutes the first day before going to get baby. Then you wait until 6:20 the next day, then 6:30 the next. By the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the time with them waking up at their usual hour.
#6 Be Consistent
As your child’s body is adjusting to the timing change of his sleep, make sure you keep sleep routines the same. Consistent routines cue our children’s bodies and brain that it is going to be time to sleep. Don’t change the rules or expectations around their sleep and sleep habits. If your child is not allowed to ‘get up for the day’ before their clock says it is time, then don’t let that slide just because of the time change (more tips on using an ‘ok-to-wake’ clock during the time change below!)
Unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, the ‘falling back’ time change is, unfortunately, going to affect sleep patterns for everyone in the house. The good news is that it should only take about a week for everyone’s sleep back on track with the clock!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep!