If you have parented through the fall back end to daylight savings time already, you may be familiar with the anxiety that starts to brew as you see the date on the calendar nearing. Some children sail right through seasonal time change easily, but I vividly remember seeing the wee morning hours of 4am or 5am the Sunday morning following the fall back time change when my children were little. In my deliriously tired state, I wondered if there was anything I could do to lessen the impact the end of daylight savings time had on my children. The good news is there are a few options you can try! You can also do nothing at all and just be flexible the Sunday following the time change to meet your child where he is at.
OPTION #1: Be proactive the week before the time change occurs.
Starting the Tuesday or Wednesday before the weekend daylight savings time ends, make an effort to start your morning routine 10 minutes later each day. In doing this, it should result in bedtime shifting a bit later by 10-15 minutes each day as well. With this small daily adjustment, you are slowly preparing your infant/child for the full hour daylight savings change, in small increments each day.
If it isn’t feasible for your morning routine to start 10 minutes later each day due to work/school commitments, that’s okay! You can still be proactive in introducing the hour fall back in your home by bumping only your evening routine later by 10 minutes each night leading up to the time change.
Proactive Day Light Savings Schedule
The Sunday after the time change, clocks will have changed to return you to your usual morning and bedtime schedules. Below is a chart of how this might look if you are adjusting for a child with a 7am wake up and 7pm bedtime.
TUESDAY: start the day at 7:10am / bedtime at 7:10pm
WEDNESDAY: start the day at 7:20am / bedtime at 7:20pm
THURSDAY: start the day at 7:30am / bedtime at 7:30pm
FRIDAY: start the day at 7:40am / bedtime at 7:40pm
SATURDAY: start the day at 7:50am / bedtime at 7:50pm
** Daylight Savings Time Change Occurs **
SUNDAY: start the day at 7am / bedtime at 7pm → back to normal routine!
OPTION #2: Adjust wake windows the weekend of the time change.
If you would rather focus on supporting your child through the time change during the weekend, this is the option for you! Wake up time will remain the same. Instead, attempt to lengthen the time your child is awake by 5-15 minutes for each wake window of his day dependent upon what his stamina can handle without becoming overtired. He may be capable of extending his wake window in varying lengths throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. Try to follow your child’s lead while being mindful of the 5-15 minute adjustment.
By tacking these few extra minutes on to each wake window, you should end up arriving at a bedtime about 30 minutes later than normal on Saturday and Sunday night. On Monday, revert back to normal wake window lengths and your normal nap rhythms and bedtime.
OPTION #3: Use your normal routine and just go with it!
You might prefer to start the Sunday after the time change without any prior adjustments. This is likely a more attractive option if your child is typically a 7am riser with a 7-8pm bedtime. Sunday morning after the time change, he will probably start his day around 6am and you’ll want to encourage bedtime around 7pm. This one day will feel a bit long. You may also notice mornings starting a touch earlier than usual shortly after the time change, but your child’s circadian rhythm will adjust just as yours will. You shouldn’t need to adjust wake window lengths with this option. However, you may notice a variation in your child’s nap lengths following the time change; this is normal. Remain mindful of encouraging naps of 1-2 hours in length and waking a child napping longer than 2 hours in order to preserve the flow of his day and bedtime.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR BABIES LESS THAN 4 MONTHS OLD
For infants less than 4 months old, it is often harder to stretch wake windows. Wake up time and bedtime are not always consistent yet. On the Sunday and week following the daylight savings time change, try to encourage your infant to start his day as close to normal as usual and stay within his usual daily rhythm.
A good tool to help overcome the extra hour added to the day might be to offer an extra cat nap in the late afternoon/early evening. This will help your infant successfully reach bedtime without being in an overtired state. It is completely appropriate for this added nap to possibly be in your arms, for the sake of increasing the odds of your infant buying in and falling asleep. Ideally by Monday or Tuesday after the time change, your infant should return to his normal routine and not require the extra cat nap beyond the first few days post-time change.
Consistency is Key for Your Child
Your approach to time change adjustments is all about what will work best for your family. It is important that while the clocks are physically changing you keep as much consistency in your child’s sleep routine as possible. In doing so, it makes it much easier for him to adjust to the change in time and return to his normal sleep patterns. Keep his nap and bedtime routines the same, remember to expose your infant to light during awake times and keep the room dark for sleep. Give yourself and your child grace, and ask for help if you need it.
A common sleep disturbance that can be a result of the end of daylight savings time is early morning (pre-6am) wake ups. If this starts creeping into your child’s morning, refer to this earlier blog for some tips and tricks to help return morning wake ups to their normal time.
The Sleep Coaching Team at Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny is also here for you as a resource to problem solve any prolonged sleep disturbances resulting from the time change. Please inquire to schedule a personalized sleep consultation!
About The Author
Courtney Poirier is a veteran Newborn Care Expert with Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has many years of experience with sleep conditioning and coaching in daycare & home settings. Prior to working with babies, she was an elementary school teacher. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their two sons. One is seven years old and the other is nine years old.