Navigating the Time Change

Posted by in Sleep Tips on Oct 21, 2012

Fall time change

As the days seem to shorten, we know that autumn is upon us. Many of us welcome the end of Day Light Savings, relishing the extra hour of sleep we’ll gain on November 4th. But for parents this can be a stressful event, especially if your child is an early riser to begin with. If you’re one of these parents, spending some time planning how you will adjust your child’s schedule should be at the top of your list.

With a little planning your child (and you!) can transition easily to the new time.

Here’s a few options on how to prepare your child for the time change:

Option #1: Gradual Adjustment

One option is to gradually adjust your child’s schedule leading up to the time change. This method works well for children who are sensitive to being over-tired, or are normally early risers.

About a week before, start putting your child to bed 15 minutes later than their normal bedtime. Every few nights, adjust their bedtime 15 minutes later until the night of the time change. By the time the clock changes, you will have shifted your child’s bedtime by an hour and will be back to their normal schedule.

For example, if your child normally goes to bed at 7 PM, start putting them to bed at 7:15 about a week before the time change. Then, every few nights, extend their bedtime by 15 minutes (7:30, then 7:45) until they are going to bed at 8:00 the night of the time change. Once you set the clock back, your child will be back on their normal schedule.  Remember, you can also shift naptime by 15-minute increments as well.

Option #1: Do Nothing

Another approach, if your child normally goes to bed at 7 PM and wakes around 7 AM, is to follow your same schedule the day the clock changes. Switch all meals, activities and naps to the new time.  As a result, wake up times will be a bit off for a few days, but soon their body will adjust. Just remember, don’t start the day earlier than 6 AM. If your child wakes before 6 AM, remind them that it is still sleepy time and then proceed with a dramatic wake up at 6 AM. Turn the lights on, open the shades, sing a good morning song and begin your day. This method works best for children with flexible, easy temperaments, who are not sensitive to being overtired. Within a few days, your child should re-settle into their same schedule.

However you choose to prepare your child for the time change, it will most likely take no longer than a week for them to adjust. Be patient and stay consistent and soon everyone will be back on their normal schedules.

Tips on navigating the time change
  • Make sure your child is well rested going into the day of the time change.  Fill their “sleep tank” during the day by giving them ample opportunities to nap.
  • At the new wake up time, turn the lights on, open the shades and expose your child to light.  This will help their internal clock reset.
  • Since the sun will be rising earlier, you may want to invest in room darkening shades to keep little ones asleep until at least 6 AM.
  • If you use a wake up light or clock, make sure to adjust the time appropriately.

fall back clock

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