Fall Back: How to Keep Your Sleep When Losing Daylight Savings
That time of year is upon us when we are told to move our clocks back by an hour. In our pre-parenting days, this would usually mean the opportunity to log an extra hour of zzzz’s. But for some reason, our kids haven’t been getting the memo!
Like clockwork, they are up at same time (except now it’s an hour earlier). Bring on the workweek and you find yourself awakening at 5am (eeeek!) by your little bundle of joy.
Fortunately, there are ways we can help buffer this adjustment in advance so we won’t feel the effects of a sudden time change quite so strongly.
Method One – Slow and Steady:
Start moving everything gradually towards your daylight savings goal one week before the time change. This means allowing your child to sleep in 10 minutes later in the morning, followed by a later breakfast, later nap, later dinner, and later bedtime. By making the move in ten minute increments, you avoid the dreaded cortisol rush (a second wind experienced if babies and small children blow past their sleepy windows), and you slowly reset their circadian rhythm so they are fully adjusted by the time the official time change occurs. This method works best for younger babies or for those who aren’t the most adaptable sleepers.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby sticks to their regular morning wake-up time. Although it means some early mornings for you, your baby is slowly adjusting their internal clock to match the one on your wall.
Method Two: Ripping off the Bandaid
This method is exactly how it sounds: jump into the time change by adjusting the full one hour in one night. This method may have some repercussions after the first day of the time change as your little ones adjust to the new bedtimes/wake times. This method may work well for older children; babies may need longer to adjust.
Method Three: Middle Ground
If you have read the two above methods, and neither seems like a fit for you and your family, as always there is a middle ground.
A few days before the time change, move your child’s bedtime back by 30 minutes. Of course, you would also ensure to move their meals and naptimes to correspond to this change. One the day of the time change, you shift bedtime back by another 30 minutes.
Any shifting in bedtime can pose a challenge for our littles as their bodies are quite happy with their natural circadian rhythms and don’t welcome a disruption in routine. But, with patience and persistence, these rhythms can be adjusted and your family will resume sleeping once again.
- If your child is stuck on their old wake up time, coach them back to sleep until the desired wake up time. Keep the lights out and stimulation minimal. No food or milk until after the time you would like for them to be up for the day. These are all cues which help their bodies set their circadian rhythm; you can also help with the programming.
- Expose your child to daylight in the morning after an appropriate wake up time. Infants need only 10 minutes and toddlers do well with 45 minutes.
- Watch your child’s sleepy cues. You may have to abandon ship on any of the above plans if you are steering your child into an overtired zone. A gentle approach may take longer, but will be easier for you and your child in the long run.
- Routine, routine, routine. By relying on predictable naptime and bedtime routines, your child may feel sleepy earlier or later than usual due to these reliable and consistent prompts.
- Prioritize naps. A child who feels well rested during the day will have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Don’t skip naps during this time.
- Be prepared to support your child through the grumps. It is very normal and realistic for children and adults to fully adjust a week after the time change EVEN if you start preparing in advance. Be kind to yourself and have tolerance for your children and their moods.
Do you have any additional tips for managing the time change? I’d love to hear them! Comment below:)
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach