On November 5th we will turn the clocks back and daylight savings will come to an end. For parents with small children, ‘falling back’ doesn’t mean that you can spend an extra hour in bed. Parents of small children dread these changes in schedules, and rightfully so! These shifts in schedules can create challenges with nap and bedtime routines. With some understanding of how the time change affects our sleep and planning ahead for our child, you can daylight savings and your baby’s sleep go a little smoother!
Daylight Savings – Falling back
For those who don’t have young children, you will get an extra hour of sleep on November 5th – yay! For those with small children, this is the more difficult time change because schedules are moving BACK one hour. This time change can be especially challenging for children who are already early risers. As an example, a child who typically sleeps from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. will now be on a 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. schedule. The amount of sleep they get has not changed, but the clock has. Children who are already struggling with sleep may have difficulty adjusting to this change and it could take up to two weeks for their internal clocks to adjust.
Fortunately, there are ways to plan for daylight savings and your baby’s sleep. Let’s dive into it!
Making this happen
If your child is not sensitive to schedule changes
If your baby is a great sleeper and is typically not sensitive to schedule changes, then you don’t need to do anything before Daylight Saving Time. The adjustment is going to require minimal effort on your part and is all done after the time change. You will be responding to the time change, rather than anticipating the time change. You will do this by moving their entire schedule forward by 30 minutes on the day of the time change.
If your child is sensitive to schedule changes
Navigating daylight savings and your baby’s sleep is challenging when your little one is more sensitive to schedule changes. You will want to gradually shift wakeup time, bedtime, and naps in the days leading up to November 5th to make falling asleep and sleeping through the night easier. To change our biological clocks by one hour, move wake times, naps, and bedtime slowly over a few days in anticipation of the time change. This means you will put your child to bed 15 minutes later each day for a week leading up to the time change.
Daylight Savings How to Guide
The beginning and end of daylight saving time can cause disruptions to sleep for adults and children. Younger children will likely get up an hour earlier after this time change. Using the tips above and making small changes to your child’s sleep schedule before November 5th can help ease the transition of daylight savings and your baby’s sleep.
No matter which plan you choose, keep in mind these 4 important tips:
1) Maintain a consistent bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be the same each and every night. Bedtime routines encourage positive sleep patterns, healthy sleep habits, and restful sleep.
For example: bath, lotion, pajamas, feed, book, lullaby, into crib.
The pattern of these events prepares your baby for sleep no matter what time the clock is reading.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for some winding-down activities that don’t include screen time, check out these bedtime activity ideas for preschoolers.
2) Use light and darkness!
During the day, expose your baby to natural daylight. Grab your stroller or carrier and get out of the house. Take a nice daytime walk or go on your deck to have your coffee. If it’s cold out, open your blinds and get natural light from the windows, or at least open all the lights in your house. Exposure to light early in the day helps produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone, for sleep that night. Light in the afternoon and evening can help your baby stay awake until bedtime.
When it’s time for a nap or bedtime routine, you want to start to dim the lights and then turn them off completely. Make sure to keep it pitch dark until it’s time to start the day. Even a small amount of light coming through their windows can cause melatonin production to stop and their eyes to open.
Light and darkness do make a big impact on sleep and can have a big impact on nighttime wakings and early morning wakeups.
3) Give yourself some time and grace.
Time changes take time (no pun intended) for our bodies to adjust. The best approach is to be flexible, open-minded, and remember that we’re human. These changes require patience! Your baby will adjust to their normal schedule but it can take up to two weeks for these adjustments to take place.
Daylight savings and your baby’s sleep might be a longer adjustment than you hope, but it will happen eventually. Try to give your baby some time and space to adjust, and give yourself some too!
4) Help is here if you need it!
Try to remember that the falling back daylight savings and your baby’s sleep adjustment is about shifting their sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. This is not an easy shift. Unlike a sleep regression, this transition is all about shifting your child’s internal clock.
If you’ve shifted your baby’s schedule and you are experiencing early morning wakeups, check out my Early Waking Guide. It covers how to get your sleep schedule back on track so you can improve your sleep quality! If your struggle is bigger than just early wakings, Sleep Shore offers one-on-one sleep support to help your child self-soothe, fall asleep, and stay asleep. Every child is different, and I’ll guide you based on YOUR unique child’s needs. Good sleep is ahead! Reading this in the spring? Check out my post for sleep tips on daylight savings and your baby’s sleep when the clocks spring forward!