Handling Sleep and Fall Daylight Savings Time With Kids

Daylight Savings Time Fall

It’s our favorite time of the year – Daylight Savings Time!  The evenings get darker and the kids wake up earlier.  In many cases, it can take up to a week for the body to get adjusted to the time change, but I have some tips to help ensure a smooth transition.  

During the day of the time change, get your little one outside to expose them to some sunlight as this can do wonders in helping them get good sleep that first night.  The key is to avoid overtiredness, as that can be your worst enemy, so you will want to avoid keeping your child up an extra hour the first night of the time change.

On night 1, pretend the time change doesn’t exist!  Put your little one to bed at the same time as usual.  Do not think about the new time until the next day.  This will make the transition easier. 

Also, do not worry if your little one wakes up early because of the time change.  If they are happy and awake in their crib, leave them until they are ready to get up for the day.  Keeping them in their dark room can help teach their body clock that it is still morning and not time to get up yet.  

Adjust to the new time once you have had a cup of coffee or tea and everyone has had breakfast. 

There are two ways that I recommend adjusting to the time change:  cold turkey or splitting the difference.

Cold turkey would be to just follow the “new” time starting with naps or bedtime on the first day.  

My favorite method is Splitting the Difference.  This is a more gradual adjustment, splitting the difference in time by 30 minute increments.

Splitting the Difference:

Naps:  Once you have started your day and completed the morning routine, set the clocks back (or acknowledge the new time).  Move nap time and bedtime ahead by 30 minutes.  For example, if nap 1 is usually at 9:30 am, offer it at 9:00 am.  Do the same for all naps.  You will use this adjustment for the first four days.

If your child is on one nap and usually naps at 12:00 pm, move nap to 11:30 pm.  

Bedtime:  If bedtime is usually at 7:00 pm, move it to 6:30 pm.  You will use this adjustment for four days.

Adjust naps and bedtime on this schedule for 4 days to help your child gradually adjust to the change.

On night 5, go back to your regularly scheduled nap times and bedtimes (you will be on the “new” time schedule).  At this point, your child should be adjusted to the time change so you can get back on track with the regular sleep times.

Mornings:  The most dreaded part of “falling back” is dealing with early morning wake ups.  If baby’s regular wake up time is 7:00 am and they are now waking at 6:00 am, gradually increase the time you go in to get them by keeping to a minimum wake up time.  This means, every 3 days, adjust the time you go in to get your child by 15-minute increments.  For example, 6:15 am for 3 days, then 6:30 am for 3 days, etc, until you get back to their regular wake up time.  

Toddlers and Older:  If you are using an OK to Wake Clock, reset the times so you can gradually increase the wake up and bedtime using the adjustments above.  Do this until you are ready to get back on your child’s regular schedule.  

For those visual learners, here is a  calendar:

Keep in mind that no matter how much you prepare, the first few days may be rough.  Early morning wake ups can happen in the beginning, but just stick to that minimum wake up time to get your child out of bed each day.  With consistency and patience, you will get through it!


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