Before having kids, I remember rejoicing about the ‘extra hour’ of sleep we got at the ‘falling back’ daylight savings time change each year. (Or the extra hour my friends and I thought we should have the bars… but I digress.)
Too bad kids don’t seem to understand the joy of sleeping in, let alone what an extra hour of sleep means!
In case you missed it, (at least here in Colorado) the daylight savings time change is happening in about a week and a half on Sunday, November 3rd.
There is talk about putting an end to this daylight savings madness. Afterall, saving energy during World War 1, the original reason for the daylight savings time change, is not a relevant factor any longer. Unfortunately, that has yet to come to fruition, so we must get ready to adjust.
Changing the time is very disruptive for the sleep patterns of children and adults. This means it will be getting dark, practically, in the middle of the afternoon. But also if you don’t do some adjusting to your little one’s schedule, their 6:00 AM wakeup call could become 5:00 AM.
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. Or you could even leave your phone in the other room Saturday night so it isn’t the first thing you grab or see in the morning. (BONUS: Not having your phone in the room or in bed with you before you go to sleep can help you sleep better, too!)
#2 Gradually adjust your child’s sleep schedule
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.
If you feel like your child is very sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule, getting even a tiny bit overtired or going to bed later than normal, you can adjust their sleep times by 15 minutes every two days and get back in line with the clock on day seven.
#3 Be Patient
It is going to take roughly one week for your child’s body (and yours, too) to adjust to ‘falling back’ for daylight savings. 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.
Ensuring you are making adjustments to get their sleep schedules back in line with the clock gradually, as described above, can help avoid too much overtiredness. Overtiredness can become a cycle and create more and more sleep challenges with struggles going to sleep, middle-of-the-night wakeups and chronically early mornings.
#4 Use the Dark and the Light
Light and darkness are the primarily factors that cue our body clocks. When the time changes and it is getting dark super early and light even a bit earlier than normal, it can really throw things off. Taking some steps to keep things dark during the hours we want our kids to be sleeping and light during awake hours can help with the clock adjustment.
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!
The opposite of this is also true. When the sun goes down in what feels like the middle of the afternoon, keeping bright lights on around the house until about an hour before bedtime will help keep their body clocks from wanting to go to bed super early (and then wake up super early.)
Exposing your little one to the sunlight at their normal wake up time by opening those blackout shades when they get up, will further help their body clocks adjust to the new clock time.
#5 Adjust 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.
(If you don’t have an ‘ok-to-wake’ clock, they can be a great tool to help toddlers feel more ownership of their sleep because they can easily see on their own when they can get up and start the day. Here are my favorites*: The Hatch Baby Rest– a sound machine, night light and ok-to-rise clock all in one and the Mirari Ok to Wake! Clock.)
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.
#7 Plan out your daylight savings time change adjustments
Let’s face it, we are all busy. As we get busy or behind throughout the day, nap times or bedtimes can often get pushed. Especially when right after the time change you want to get your little one to bed or down for sleep earlier per the clock than you are used to.
You can write it out and post it on the refrigerator or set alarms or reminders in your phone for nap and bedtimes for the 3 days after the time change when you will want to get to get your little one down earlier per the clock so you don’t forget or get pushed back. Planning it out in a way that will help you stick to the plan when life is crazy (because when is it not crazy with little ones) will help you get their sleep adjusted quickly and easily and avoid getting into a cycle of overtiredness or an undesired sleep schedule.
I’ve got a no-brainer guide here to help you plan out the time change so you can make sure you don’t miss the chance to make sure it goes smoothly and quickly!
Unless you live in one of the wonderful states or countries that has done away with Daylight Savings time changes, 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!
If you have any questions about the time change or how to implement the steps above, reach out to me here so that we can make sure you and your family keep your sleep on track!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep!
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.