It’s almost here! That wonderful day where, for no other reason but happy fate, we get an extra hour of…. oh wait. I forgot I’m writing this to parents.
Scratch that, here’s your survival guide to Daylight Savings and “falling back.”
If you’re a parent of a child going to bed a little later than you’d like, this is a good day for you. That 9pm bedtime magically changes to 8pm and that 8:30am wake up changes to 7:30am and it’s easier for you to get your little out the door in the morning.
If you love your current schedule, you will have a little bit of adjusting to do now that the clocks are turning back an hour. There’s no rush, and you can do this in 10, 15, or 20 minute increments. Let’s say you choose 15 minute increments. Over the course of four days, you’ll make your child’s bedtime later by 15 minutes each day, and do your best to add 15 minutes to their morning before you go and get them from their room. Don’t forget to move naps too! You can also take the “rip the Band-Aid off” approach and just try to shift everything (naps, bedtime, and morning waking) one hour starting Sunday. The main thing to remember is that this shift is going to be messing with your child’s circadian rhythm (or “body clock”), which can be a little stubborn sometimes! Don’t be surprised if the morning waking in particular doesn’t change reliably for up to two weeks. See below on how to shift your child’s circadian rhythm.
If you have an early riser already, you are definitely going to want to be proactive in making some schedule changes. Let’s say your little one is waking at 6am currently. After Sunday, they’ll be waking at 5am! And will likely be nodding off during dinner. We have about two hours to shift to get them on an ideal schedule. For this reason, we don’t want to “rip the Band-Aid off,” because it could potentially cause your child to lose those full two hours of sleep for several days, and get into an overtired cycle. I suggest committing to buckling down for a good two weeks and consistently shifting bedtime, wake time, and naps 10 minutes at a time. As an example, let’s say after the time change your child is ready for bed at 6pm and waking up at 5am with a nap time of 10:30am. The next day would be 5:10am wake up, 10:40am nap, 6:10pm bedtime. The following day would be 5:20am wake up, 10:50am nap, 6:20pm bedtime. Continue this pattern until you’re at your goal times. Bedtime and naps are usually not hard to shift, but morning wake times are stubborn. Here are some things that will help:
- Light and dark. Make good use of blackout blinds. Circadian rhythm is largely informed by light, so if you ensure your child’s room is dark at bedtime and in the morning, they have a better chance at falling asleep easily and sleeping later in the morning.
- Treat early morning wakings like night wakings. When your child wakes too early, go in and check on them, or sit near them, but keep the room dark, your voice at a whisper, and don’t get them out of their bed.
- If age appropriate, try to delay breakfast until ideal wake time.
- Keep a sleep log. This will help make sure you’re being consistent in pushing their wake times a bit each morning, and will allow you to see their progress.
- If you have a toddler, use an Okay to Wake clock. My favorite is the @hatchbaby Rest.
- Be patient. There is no magic reset button for a child’s schedule. Pushing an early wake time 1-2 hours truly does just take time and consistency!