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How to Help Your Child Adjust to the Time Change

The morning light is starting to take longer to come through those blinds and the darkness in the evenings arrives a little sooner these days, which means it’s that time again for Daylight Savings to end and our clocks to “fall back” an hour. Chances are you have finally gotten your little one into a great sleeping schedule where she goes down without a fuss, sleeps soundly through the night, and wakes up a happy little camper, and now the time change could potentially wreak havoc on that nice sleep schedule you have worked so hard to set up. On top of all of that, 2020 has once again delivered and has given us a triple threat this month. Halloween, a full moon, and the time change are all occurring on the same night! Fear not...we are here to provide a few tips on how to navigate the time change. 

I always like to recommend waiting to set your clocks back until Sunday morning instead of Saturday night. It helps the mind and body ease into the time change and makes the transition easier for everyone in the morning.  

My best advice to help children with the change is to split the difference with the old time and the new time. Here is how that would work for school age children, toddlers, and infants.

School Age Children: School Age Children- If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., you would put him to bed at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night, the first night of the time change.  Do this for 3 nights, putting him to bed 30 minutes earlier than normal, then on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time, 7:00 p.m. or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.

Toddlers: If you have a toddler one year old and older, on Sunday the first day of the time change, you would put him down for his first nap 30 minutes earlier than normal.   So if he naps usually at 9:30 a.m. put him down at 9:00 a.m.  You would do the same with the afternoon nap if he takes an afternoon nap.  For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., you would put him down at 6:30 p.m.   Do this for 3 nights after the time change and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00 p.m. and on 5th day move naptimes back to normal time.   So if your child naps at 9:30 a.m. put him down at 9:30 a.m. and so on with the rest of the day. 

Infants: If you have a baby and his bedtime and naps have become predictable (usually over 6 months old) meaning he is always going to bed around the same time each day.  Start 45 minutes earlier than normal and move them 15 minutes later each day.  For example if bedtime is normally 7:00 p.m. move bedtime 15 minutes later each night until you reach the normal time again.  So the first night you would put him down at 6:15 p.m., the second night 6:30 p.m., and so on.  On the fourth night you should be back to 7:00 p.m.  Do the same thing for naps.  Start 45 minutes earlier than normal and move them 15 minutes later each day.  So if morning nap is at 9:00 a.m. normally, start with 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, 8:30 a.m. on Monday, 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday and then 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday.  Do the same for the afternoon nap.  If their bedtime and nap times are not predictable (0-6 months old) simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone and use their wake time window (awake time between sleep periods) as your guide. 

Morning Time: A great thing about this time change is that there are more hours of darkness which helps make this transition a little easier.  If your child wakes up too early, walk them back to their room and tell them it’s not time to get up yet.   If your child wakes up too early and is in a crib, be sure to help his body understand it isn’t morning time by keeping him in his crib in the dark room until normal wake time.   

Sleep Tip:  If you have a toddler or an older child who relies on a clock to know when their “morning time” has arrived, set the clock one half hour ahead of the new time so that it reads 7:00 a.m. at the new time of 6:30 a.m.  Allow your child to wake a bit earlier than normal (they will think it is 7:00 according to the clock but it will be 6:30 a.m., new time). This will only be temporary as your child adjusts to wake at their usual 7:00 a.m. time after about one or two weeks.

This transition usually takes about a week for children and babies to completely adjust to the new time, and for some children it can take up to a month. However, be patient, stay very consistent, and it will happen.

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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