Oh, the dreaded Fall Back – the change in Daylight Savings Time that occurs each autumn that has parents of already-early wakers wanting to run for the hills. Good news! There ARE ways to manage Daylight Savings Time that will result in much less stress for your family. Here are some options, depending on your child’s current sleep patterns and how well he adapts to changes in his scheduling:
OPTION ONE: STATUS QUO
The first option is to do nothing. This is a good option if your child is already waking around 6:30/7 a.m. each day and going to bed at 7 p.m., and has shown a good ability to go with the flow and not be very affected by small scheduling changes. The day the clock changes, it will read “6 a.m.,” but it really is no different than the day before. You will stick to your usual schedule and put your child to bed when the clock says 7 p.m. that night. To him, this will really seem like 8 p.m., but for babies or toddlers who are not particularly sensitive to being overtired, this is a great strategy and – within a day or two at most – he will be re-settled into his normal schedule. Even if your baby is an early bird who often wakes at 6am or before, maintaining status quo during Daylight Savings Time will likely mean he falls back to the normal routine of waking at his “usual” time after a few days to a week. If this works for you, I would simply suggest going with this option and planning to wake up at 5-6 a.m. for a few days.
OPTION TWO: SHIFT THE SCHEDULE IN ADVANCE
The second option is to slowly change your child’s schedule over the course of a few days prior to the Daylight Savings change. On Wednesday, before the weekend time change, put your child to bed 15 minutes later than normal, in hopes that he wakes up 15 minutes later in the morning (I can’t guarantee this will happen, because of our internal clocks, but it does work for some!). Also, put him down for his naps 15 minutes later than usual. Keep putting him to bed 15 minutes later each night until the night of the time change. By the time Daylight Savings rolls around, you will have shifted his schedule by one hour, the clock will change, and you will be back to your normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option can have a negative effect on children who become easily overtired, possibly leading to crankiness, early morning wake-up, night-wakings and short naps. This may be something you need to manage for a couple of weeks or more until your child’s internal clock adjusts.
OPTION THREE: SHIFT THE SCHEDULE AFTER THE TIME CHANGE
The third option is to stick to the regular schedule leading up to the time change and- once the day of the time change has passed – alter the schedule only as much as your child can handle. The first night, you may only get to a 6:00 p.m. bedtime, for example, and your little one will go to bed earlier than normal (by the actual time on the clock). After a few days, he should settle into his normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option can be quite tough on those with children who are already wake early in the morning.
As you can see, there are a variety of things you can do to try to manage your child’s sleep around Daylight Savings Time. The very important thing to remember is that, as with any change or “bump” in your child’s normal sleep patterns, this too shall pass with time and LOTS of consistency on your part!