Daylights Savings Time and the Dreaded Fall Back: Where Most People Gain an Hour of Sleep….. But Not Parents!

Daylights Savings Time and the Dreaded Fall Back: Where Most People Gain an Hour of Sleep….. But Not Parents!

As a parent of young children, your mornings are already early enough!  The lazy mornings of snuggling in bed and reading a good book are long gone.  Long since replaced by coffee and the park, or some Caillou.  Added to your early morning suffering… daylights savings time and fall back.

The promised extra hour of sleep is totally lost on our kiddos.  As if 6 am wasn’t early enough!   Now that will read 5 am on the clock.  *shivers*  Way too early.

Not to mention the DST change aftermath which can leave kids having trouble falling asleep and more likely to wake up at night,  for days to follow.  Daylight savings time happens in one day, but the repercussions can last a week.

On Sunday morning, your baby’s internal clock will continue to wake up at 6 am, even though your clock now says 5 am.

You have two goals to adjust to “Fall Back”.

  1. Gently shifting your child’s schedule. Don’t do it all in one false swoop, as that will backfire with sleep disturbances such as night waking and even earlier morning wake ups.
  2. Gently shift the schedule to avoid your child from becoming overtired. When a child is kept awake too long before bedtime, or nap time, it can be harder for her to settle and she’s at risk for short naps or night wakings.  Which is why you can’t just keep your child up one hour later at bedtime.

Here are a few tips to help you adjust your little one’s schedule:

For Babies:

  • Start by shifting your nap schedule later in 15-minute increments, over 4 days to adjust to the hour.
  • Start with the first nap of the day, keeping her up 15 minutes longer so the nap is later in the day.
  • This will have a cascade effect into the rest of naps and bedtime that day.
  • If she was napping at 9 am old time, this is now 8 am new time, so put her down for the nap at 8:15 am new time.
  • Do the same thing the next day. Over 4 days, you will have shifted the schedule the full hour and be back on track.

 For example:

If her awake times were 2:45/3/3:30, then you would use an awake time schedule of 3/3/3:30 for 4 days, which would shift the full hour over the four days.  You don’t need to add 15 minutes of awake time to each awake time, just the first one of the day.

For Toddlers:

  • Toddlers are less susceptible to becoming overtired than babies, you can push them a little more without the risk of them becoming overtired and having sleep distrubances.
  • Shift the nap time by 20 -30 minutes later for 2-3 days in a row.
  • By 2-3 days your schedule will have shifted the full hour and be back on track.

The worst case scenario is that your child has trouble breaking her body’s clock of waking at 6 am, which is now 5 am.  This can become an issue if your bedtime is now 1 hour later.  Meaning she’s going to bed at 8 pm, but still waking up at 5 am.  Now your child has just lost 1 hour of nighttime sleep, which is significant.  This lack of sleep can lead to increased fussiness during the day, trouble falling asleep and then staying asleep.

If you are having trouble breaking that habitual wake up, you can try a technique called “wake to sleep”, where you enter your child’s room 1 hour before the habitual wake-up and gently touch her.  You’re not trying to wake her up, but rather disrupt her sleep cycles so she starts a new sleep cycle.

You’re looking for her to flinch, sigh, or move a limb, to indicate she’s surfaced and has gone into the next sleep cycle.  Sometimes just opening the bedroom door can cause this, and other times, you’ll have to touch her.  This can take 3 attempts to be successful.

One strategy that helps is to lower your expectations and expect it to take 5-7 days for your child’s schedule to shift.  Nothing is every black and white when it comes to kids and their sleep.

In addition, try and see some good in daylights savings time, in that it is a gateway to the holiday season!

Do you like what I have to say?  Come join my FREE Facebook group Ask the Expert – Helping Babies Sleep Training – with Dr. Sarah Mitchell.