Remember back to pre-kid-yesteryear when the end of daylight saving time meant one more blissful hour of sleep in the mornings? Yeah, I remember it too... Wasn't it glorious?
While older children and adults generally handle the Fall time change without too much difficulty, usually by simply rolling over and going back to sleep for another hour, babies and young toddlers can't do this. Their internal body clocks will wake them up at their normal hour but since they don't understand that now there's an additional hour before it's time to get up, they're ready to start the day as usual as soon as they wake up. This is why parents often dread the end of daylight saving time -- it can mean extra-early mornings, which then throw off naps and bedtime, which all creates a vicious cycle of overtired crankiness.
So even though "sleeping in" is not a thing we do in our household anymore, and probably isn't in yours either, I have a few tips to help your little ones adjust to the time change smoothly.
This year, daylight saving time ends at 2am on Sunday, November 5th. There are two approaches you can take with your child's sleep schedule and which one you decide to use will depend on your child's temperament.
Approach #1: Do nothing. If you have a well-rested, adaptable child on a consistent sleep schedule, you probably don't need to do much. As you shift the rest of your daily schedule after the time change, including meals, activities, school, etc., your child's sleep schedule should move right along with everything else. You may have a few "off" days in regard to sleep after the time change, but follow your child's lead. Keep one eye on your little one and one eye on the clock, making sure to not push sleep time too late if they are tired a little earlier than usual. Keep aiming for the new clock times, though. After 5-7 days, your little one will most likely be sleeping in accord with the new time.
Approach #2: Shift gradually. If your child is more sensitive to adjustments in their sleep schedule, then I recommend gradually moving their sleep times later by 15 minutes every two days during the week leading up to Sunday, November 5th. Start adjusting on Saturday, October 28th and push all naps later by 15 minutes. For example, if your child normally naps at 8:30am and 12:30pm, you will shift each nap time to 8:45am and 12:45pm. If bedtime is normally at 6:30pm, it will also be 15 minutes later, at 6:45pm. On Sunday, keep the naps and bedtime shifted to the same times as they were on Saturday. Then on Monday, make another 15 minute adjustment. So in our example, naps on Monday will now be at 9:00am and 1:00pm and bedtime will be at 7:00pm. Tuesday's naps and bedtime will be the same as Monday's. Shift everything 15 minutes later again on Wednesday and keep those same times on Thursday. Then shift everything 15 minutes later on Friday and keep those same times on Saturday. On Sunday morning, November 5th, if all goes according to plan, your little one will wake up to the new time on the clock that's actually their normal wake up time. Naps and bedtime will also be at the normal clock times, so back to 8:30am, 12:30pm, and 6:30pm.
Now, with either approach you use, here are some important tips to keep in mind that will make resetting the clock a little easier on everyone.
1) Beware of the overtired monster. The younger your baby, the easier they will become overtired. If your baby is younger than 6 months, be careful to not make any drastic changes in their schedule that will cause a downward spiral with their sleep. If your baby gets pushed too far beyond what she can handle, you'll notice night wakings, shorter naps, and/or early morning wakings.
2) Keep it dark. As in pitch black. The sun will be rising earlier relative to the clock time after the time change, so make sure absolutely no light is creeping in your child's window in the mornings. Giving your child a nice dark room will help them sleep to their normal morning wake up time.
3) Get plenty of sunshine. Sunshine has an incredible effect on the body's circadian rhythm. It halts the production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles), which will help to reset the body's internal clock to the new schedule. So head outside, especially in the morning, and go run around in the crunchy Fall leaves.
4) If your child uses a toddler clock... Simply adjust the clock according to which approach you choose to use above. So if you choose the "do nothing" approach, leave the clock alone on Saturday night, then Sunday morning when you get up and change all the other clocks in your house, reset the toddler clock, too. This way the toddler clock on Monday morning will be set to the new time, helping your child stay in their bed another hour. If you choose the "shift gradually" approach, adjust the toddler clock's wake time by 15 minutes each time you shift the nap and bedtime later. So if your child normally goes to bed at 7:30pm and wakes at 6:30am, change the wake time on the toddler clock to 6:45am when you push bedtime to 7:45pm.
5) Follow through. If on the first day or so after the time change, your child wakes up earlier than their normal time, let them hang out for as long as you are comfortable. After a few days if they are still waking early, aim to leave them in their bed until 6am so they adjust to when the new morning starts. And as always, stick to your regular routines and expectations around sleep.
Hopefully with these tips, the end of daylight saving time will be uneventful in your house this year. If you find yourself struggling to help your children adjust, I'm here to help! Contact me and we can figure things out.