Even though it it’s still snowing in this part of the world, spring is just around the corner. Longer days also mean Daylight Savings Time changes, and that can certainly wreak havoc with your child’s sleeping patterns. Here’s some ways you can prepare and minimize the effects.
This coming Sunday, March 12th, you will wake up having to turn your clocks forward 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, toddler, and children are more likely to be thrown off by the drastic switch.
Early riser? You’re in luck!
If you have a particularly early riser, take advantage of this clock change! When the clock springs forward, the usual 6 a.m. will be 7 a.m. Let them sleep “in”, and make their bedtime one hour later according to the clock. So if your child had a bedtime of 6 p.m., then switch it with the clock to 7 p.m. Biologically, they won’t know the difference, but according to the clock they will no longer be waking so early. Win-win.
Here are 4 ways you can help your child (or children) adjust to the time change:
1. Starting before Daylight Savings begins
Starting three days before DST starts, move your child’s bedtime up about 15 minutes. 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 earlier every day, until you’ve adjusted it by 60 minutes. This way, you will have shifted your baby’s schedule to one hour earlier by the time you have to move your clock forward one hour. Voilà! You’ll be back in sync when the time changes.
If you feel your child is more sensitive and will need more days to adjust, you can work in 10-minute increments starting five days before. If you feel your child will adjust more easily, then do 20-minute increments, starting two days before.
For example, if your child has a 7 p.m. bedtime, and you want to adjust in 15-minute increments, do the following:
On Thursday, March 09th
- Wake-up and nap times 15 min. earlier than usual
- Bedtime of 6:45 p.m.
On Friday, March 10th
- Wake-up and nap times 30 min. earlier than usual (15 min. earlier than the day before)
- Bedtime of 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday, March 11th
- Wake-up and nap times 45 min. earlier than usual (15 min. earlier than the day before)
- Bedtime of 6:15 p.m.
On Sunday, March 12th
- Follow the clock: you’re back on track! (if the time hadn’t changed, all your nap times and bedtime would be 60 minutes earlier than usual)
2. Making adjustments after Daylight Savings starts
If you’d rather make adjustments after DST has begun, you’ll probably find that your child will wake up one hour “later” on Sunday (based on the clock). From that moment on, shift your child’s nap and bedtimes to about 45 minutes later than their regular schedule. The next day, make it 30 minutes later, 15 minutes later on the third day, and “on time” for the final day. If you feel your child will need more time to adjust, you can adjust the timing in 10-minute increments, 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 increments, 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 later on Sunday.
On Sunday, March 12th
- Your child will wake up about one hour later than usual
- Offer naps 45 min. later than usual
- Bedtime of 7:45 p.m.
On Monday, March 13th
- Your child will wake up about 45 min. later than usual
- Offer naps 30 min. later than usual
- Bedtime of 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, March 14th
- Your child will wake up about 30 min. later than usual
- Offer naps 15 min. later than usual
- Bedtime of 7:15 p.m.
On Wednesday, March 15th
- Your child will wake up about 15 min. later 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. Following the clock change, 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.
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 (their body can’t yet 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! Curious to read more about this mindset? Listen to our episode Can You Let Your Baby Sleep Whenever They Want? with Dr. Pamela Douglas of Possums & Co.
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