By Nicole Johnson
The end of daylight saving time is almost up on us; on November 1, we’ll bump our clocks back by an hour. For many, that extra hour translates into a bonus hour of blissful, lazy sleep the next morning. But for those of us with young children at home, we know better. We know that “falling back” will mean an insanely early wake-up call from our little ones who (unfortunately for us) aren’t yet able to read and interpret the clock.
So what’s a busy working parent to do? How can we keep the time change from wrecking our carefully-coordinated daytime schedules? Follow these daylight savings sleep tips.
Why the end of daylight savings can spell disaster
Before we get into the how-to’s of dealing with the end of daylight savings time, let’s talk first about why it poses such a problem. Long story short, the drive to sleep and to wake (both ours and our children’s) is dictated by our bodies’ circadian rhythms. These rhythms are strong, and simply adjusting the clock backwards or forwards won’t impact these rhythms right away. While this rarely poses a problem for teens and adults (i.e. those of us who can read clocks and who greatly appreciate an extra hour to lounge in bed), it poses a big problem for babies and young children who aren’t yet respecters of the clock and who don’t “get” that yesterday’s 6 a.m. is today’s 5 a.m.
In short, the end of daylight saving time usually means a wake-up call that is a full hour earlier than it should be. No small thing indeed for busy working parents who need their sleep!
How to prevent “falling back” from wrecking your schedule completely
If you have a baby or toddler at home who’s already waking later than you’d like, congratulations – the end of daylight saving time is going to do you some favors! The time change will naturally bump your little one’s morning wake-up time back, so it will essentially solve your problem for you.
If you like your child’s current wake-up time, however, then you have a potential headache on your hands, as you probably don’t want it to happen an hour earlier. In this case, you can do some damage control: in the days leading up to the time change, try waking your child later.
Even waking your child 20 to 30 minutes later each morning can make a difference, as it may help to shift the wake-up call enough that your child isn’t waking a full hour earlier after the time change.
How to deal with “falling back” aftermath
Let me be clear: Even if you prep like a pro for “falling back,” you will likely have at least a little schedule chaos on your hands after the time change. So how can you manage it?
If your child is pretty adaptable, it may be fine just to go back to the old schedule “cold turkey.” The day after the time change, put your kiddo to bed at the usual time (even though it will feel an hour “late” to him), and then wake him at the usual time. A few days of this should reset things well. If your child is less adaptable, then do this by degrees—gradually move towards your usual bedtime and wake-up time in 15-minute increments.
As for the morning wake-up time: if your child is up way too early after the time change, avoid getting her up for the day at this time. Go in an offer comfort, but treat it more like a nighttime waking. Then, get her up for the day at the usual time. This distinguishes the early wake-up from what should be her “real” wake-up time, and thus will help to re-set her schedule more quickly.
However you choose to deal with the time change, remember—the key is to have appropriate expectations. Your child’s schedule no doubt will be thrown off at least a bit by “falling back,” and you may have some off days right after the time change. But if you commit to getting back on track by using the tips above, within a week or so, you should be back to normal.
For more baby and toddler sleep tips, feel free to download my popular free e-book, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night. It’s 100% free, and it’s a quick read, which means you can read it now and put the tips inside to work as early as bedtime tonight!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help.
More daylight savings sleep tips
- See Nicole’s sleep tips for moms heading back to work after maternity leave.
- Discover 9 ways you could take advantage of extra hour you gain with Daylight Savings Time.
- Sleep deprivation is unavoidable for new parents, but this pediatrician-mom of 3 created a baby sleep guide to help newborns and parents catch more Zzz’s.