Your Child’s Sleep and Daylight Savings Time
by Adriana Lozada
When trying to figure out your child’s sleep patterns, there’s always something to keep you on your toes: teething, colds, growth spurts, developmental milestones… and then there’s Daylight Savings Time changes. While the first ones show up nilly-willy, leaving little time for preparation, you know exactly when DST is going to hit. And you can be ready for it.
In 2021, on Sunday, November 7, we turn our clocks back one hour.
Newborns and younger babies who don’t have a well-established biological clock probably won’t be affected by the time change, but older babies, toddlers and children are more likely to be thrown off by the drastic switch. Here are four ways you can help your child (or children) adjust to the time change:
1. Starting BEFORE Daylight Savings Time ends
Starting three days before having to change your clocks, make your child’s bedtime 15 minutes later. If you have a daily routine in place, adjust your wake-up time and nap times that day as well. Continue to shift everything 15 minutes later every day, until you’ve adjusted it by 60 minutes. This way, you will have shifted your baby’s schedule to one hour later by the time you have to move your clock back one hour. Voilà! You’ll be back in sync with your original schedule when the time changes.
- If your feel your child is more sensitive and will need more days to adjust, you can work in 10-minute increments starting 5 days before.
- If you need to take it suuuuuper slow, you can start 10 days before, shifting in 10-minute increments every two days (or 15 min increments every 3 days).
- If you feel your child will adjust more easily, then do 20-minute increments, starting 2 days before.
If your child has a 7 p.m. bedtime, and you want to adjust in 15-minute increments, do the following:
On Thursday 11/4:
- Wake-up and nap times 15 minutes later than usual
- Bedtime of 7:15 p.m.
On Friday 11/5:
- Wake-up and nap times 30 minutes later than usual (15 minutes later than the day before)
- Bedtime of 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday 11/6:
- Wake-up and nap times 45 minutes later than usual (15 minutes later than the day before)
- Bedtime of 7:45 p.m.
On Sunday 11/7:
- Follow the clock: you’re back on track with your original 7 p.m. bedtime (since 8 p.m. is now 7 p.m.)
2. Making adjustments after Daylight Savings Time ends
If you’d rather make adjustments after DST has ended, you’ll probably find that your child will wake up one hour “earlier” on Sunday (based on the clock). From that moment on, shift your child’s nap and bedtimes to about 45 minutes earlier than their regular schedule. The next day, make it 30 minutes earlier. 15 minutes earlier the third day, and “on time” for the final day. If your feel your child will need more time to adjust, you can adjust the timing in 10-minute reductions, knowing that you won’t be “on time” for about a week.
If you feel your child will adjust more easily, then do 20-minute reductions, and you’ll be done in about 3 days. This method is a bit rougher than the previous one, because the first time interval is a much longer leap and you’ll be waking up about an hour earlier on Sunday. Make sure you go to bed extra early on Saturday night!
If your child has a 7 p.m. bedtime, and you want to adjust in 15-minute reductions, do the following:
On Sunday 11/7:
- Your child will probably wake up about 1 hour “earlier” than usual (according to the changed clock)
- Make naps 45 minutes earlier than your usual schedule
- Bedtime of 6:15 p.m.
On Monday 11/8:
- Your child will wake up about 45 minutes earlier than usual
- Make naps 30 minutes earlier than usual
- Bedtime of 6:30 p.m.
On Tuesday 11/9:
- Your child will wake up about 30 minutes earlier than usual
- Make naps 15 minutes earlier
- Bedtime of 6:45 p.m.
On Wednesday 11/10:
- Your child will wake up about 15 minutes earlier than usual
- Go back to your usual nap times
- Bedtime of 7 p.m.: you’re back on track!
3. Immediate transition – a.k.a. cold turkey
This approach involves following your child’s schedule based on the clock. When the clock changes, you switch your child “cold turkey” to the new time. This is a bit harder on everyone, and works best for children that are very adaptable to changes and are not hugely affected by being overtired. For a few days your child may be a mess, so be mindful that you may need to adjust nap times and bedtimes a bit anyway until your baby settles into the new routine. Also, because we are falling back, your child will be waking “earlier” through no fault of their own.
4. Who needs clocks? – a.k.a. do nothing
Of course, there’s always the option of just rolling with the change. If your newborn doesn’t have a strong circadian rhythm (can’t tell between night and day), or your child doesn’t have a regular bedtime or consistent timing for naps, then your life won’t be much affected by the time change. Continue as you were!
Early riser? Brace yourself!
If you have a particularly early riser, this change can be especially hard. When the clock falls back, the usual 6 a.m. will be 5 a.m. Ouch!
- If you haven’t implemented any changes ahead of time, make sure you go to bed extra early on Saturday, prioritize your sleep as much as you can during the weekend, and prepare mentally for having to wake even earlier than usual.
- Help your baby sleep longer that day by making sure your blackout curtains are down, or minimize the amount of light coming in from the windows as you can (it’s going to be lighter “earlier”).
- If you didn’t start adjusting your schedule before Sunday, and you baby is able to tolerate it, wait a bit longer to get them in the morning if it’s not quite yet time to get up. This will also help them adjust to the change.
- If you have an older child that has a clock in their room to let them know when it’s time to wake up, make sure to change the clock before you go to bed, in the hopes that your child will stay in their room longer (and hopefully let you sleep more).
Were you looking to make bedtime earlier?
You’re in luck! The clock will switch everything for you automatically. Instead of trying to get back on track with your usual schedule using the techniques mentioned above, shift your whole schedule an hour earlier (following the clock). Biologically, your child won’t know the difference, but according to the clock they will no longer be going to bed so late. So if your child had a bedtime of 10 p.m., once the clocks change, make it 9 p.m.
Do keep in mind that your baby will now be waking an hour earlier also, so adjust your own bedtime, wake-up time, and expectations, as needed.
Which approach do you think will work best for your family? Let me know in the comments on Instagram @birthfulpodcast!
Get Your FREE Postpartum Plan!
Sign up to get access to my NEW Postpartum Prep. Plan to help you prepare for life with a newborn! You'll also get updates from me from time to time.