Navigating Your Child's Sleep Schedule at the End of Daylight Savings Time

Remember the good old days before you had kids when you looked forward to the clocks “falling back”? 

Before you became a parent, the time change meant that you could sleep an extra hour before work on Monday. No need to hit the snooze button. Leisurely watching the morning news in bed. An extra cup of coffee. 

Let’s take a moment to savor those memories before we process what the end of daylight savings time means for your child’s sleep schedule.

Ok, time's up! Back to reality. You have children now so none of that will be possible. Once you start to do the math, you will quickly discover why.  

First, your child will be waking up an HOUR EARLIER.  Yes, your math is correct, if they normally wake up at 6:00 AM, on November 5th, they will wake up at 5:00 AM.  

To make matters worse, you could be putting them down an hour later, which we all know is a recipe for an overtired cranky kiddo. Being overtired at bedtime leads to early morning wake ups, which means that your kiddo may start waking up even earlier. 4 AM, anyone?  

The good news is that if you are reading this article, you will be prepared to face the fall time change head on and turn what could be a recipe for disaster into a minor inconvenience.  

My 3 Step Strategy for Managing the Fall Time Change

Step 1 - Do nothing.  

I recommend not changing your clocks Saturday night as it will be super duper depressing to wake-up and see the new time.  No one should wake up on Sunday and see the clock displaying 6:00 AM.  Instead, wake-up, feed the kiddos some breakfast and then adjust the clocks.  That way you can ease into the new time.

Step 2 - Use the “spilt the difference” approach.  

Instead of expecting your child to fall asleep at what feels like an hour later to them, move both naps and bedtime up by 30 minutes for three days.  

For example: your child naps at 9:30 AM and 2:00 PM and goes down for bed at 7:30 PM.  

The new schedule will be naps at 9:00 AM and 1:30 PM and bedtime at 7:00 PM.  That way, it only feels like 30 minutes later.  

Make sense?  It makes my head spin too.  Just trust me on this one!

After three days, move the schedule back to the normal time. So, in the example above, the schedule would be back to naps at 9:30 AM and 2:00 PM and bedtime at 7:30 PM.   

If your child is especially sensitive to time changes you can use of a more gradual approach by moving the schedule earlier by 45 minutes for three days and then move it later by 15 minutes every three days until you are back to your normal schedule.

Step 3 - Push your child’s morning wake-up time later, gradually.  

The technique that you use will differ depending on the age of your child.

If you have a baby, when they wake up an hour earlier on Sunday, keep them in their crib for 10 minutes before you retrieve them.  Add 10 minutes to the time you make them wait each morning until you reach your desired wake time by the end of the week.  So, 20 minutes on the second morning, 30 minutes on the third morning and so-on and so-forth. Within a week, your baby’s body should be adjusted to the time change and they will be back on schedule.

If you are a parent of a toddler (2 or older), I want you to invest in a toddler clock that indicates that it is time to wake-up by turning green and start using it ASAP. My favorite is the OK to Wake Clock.  

When it is time to change the clocks, only move it back by 30 minutes. That way, you are only expecting them to stay in bed for an extra 30 minutes. After 3 days move the time back by another 30 minutes and then you will be at the correct time.  Since you are adjusting their bedtime in the same manner by the end of the week their bodies should be adjusted to the new time.

I hope these tips help you feel less stressed about managing your child’s sleep schedule through the end of daylight savings time! 

The most important thing to remember is to be patient as it may take your child a week or even two to become fully adjusted to the new time. Children are even more sensitive to time changes than adults. Children who are not sleeping well before the time change and are overtired to begin with will have an especially difficult time adjusting to the fall time change. 

If you’re already struggling to get your child sleeping on a schedule and would like to learn more about my method for developing healthy sleep skills, I would love to chat! 

You can schedule a complimentary 15-minute evaluation here.