Daylight Saving: Fall Back

Every year, I get a TON of questions on this topic. If I had my way, there would not be a daylight saving time. It really does have an effect on all of us, and can increase our sleep debt. Children tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That’s why our youngest ones can be the most negatively impacted.

To make this transition as easy and successful as possible, check out my Fall Back Guide, Day-By-Day Steps and Additional Tips. Just a few days of adjustments and you will have your small sleeper back to being a pro. Remember, these effects are short-lived and everything should be back to normal within a week or two. However… Contact me with any concerns you may have before or during the process. Or you can purchase my official Daylight Savings Guide.

Fall Back Guide

Thankfully, most people aren’t as worried about this season time change and gaining an extra hour! For Fall Back, my recommendation to all parents is to leave the clocks alone the night before, so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After your cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me! Here’s my handy visual guide to take steps from there…

Day-By-Day Steps

Infant • More Than One Nap

Example Schedule … If your child normally wakes at 7:00 AM and naps at 10:00 AM.

Day 1  •  Leave in bed until new 6:15 AM if possible. Shift entire schedule 15 minutes later. Equals… Nap at 9:15 AM.

Day 3  •  Two days later, shift schedule another 15 minutes later. Leave in bed until 6:30 AM. Equals… Nap at 9:30 AM.

Days 5 & 7  •  Repeat the 15 minute shift every 2 days. At the end of the week, you’re back to… Wake at 7:00 AM. Nap at 10:00 AM.

Toddler & Older • One Nap or No Nap

Example Schedule … If your child normally wakes at 7:00 AM, naps at 12:30 PM, and is asleep by 8:00 PM.

Day 1  •  Set wake for new 6:30 AM. Shift entire schedule 30 minutes later. Equals… Nap at 12:00 PM. Bed at 7:30 PM.

Day 4  •  Set wake for new 7:00 AM. Shift entire schedule remaining 30 minutes. You’re back to… Nap at 12:30 PM. Bed at 8:00 PM.

Additional Tips…


Take Baby Steps
Don’t just set the clock back an hour and expect your child to get in sync right away. Shifting your child’s naps and bedtime gradually and incrementally as described will help ease your child through the time change. For some families shifting a full hour is required due to family schedule. It will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to the time change.

Control The Lights

Melatonin is a chemical released by our brain to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. Melatonin also plays a critical role in regulating our body’s circadian rhythm, our natural body clock. Melatonin increases in the evenings, as it becomes darker. Daylight saving time throws that natural body clock out of sync for a bit and can be particularly difficult for children. In the evenings, I recommend dimming the lights and turning off all screens, including TV, iPads and other electronic devices, at least 1 hour before bedtime. In addition, during the day get your child in the light as much as possible, natural light is best.

Invest In Black Out Curtains

In the spring, your child may wake up early with the sun rising and may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside; so darkening the room can be very helpful. Even though there are extra hours of daylight, children still need the same amount of sleep. It is also worth it to have a discussion with your children as they get older – that sleep is more about our body’s need, versus the position of the sun.

Stick With A Routine

A bedtime routine is a cueing system for the brain and body that sleep is near. I stress the importance of a bedtime routine every night. But if you don’t have one already implemented, now would be a good time. When daylight saving time begins, it is especially important to stick with a bedtime routine, as your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw him off.

Get Enough Sleep Now

In the days before you change your clocks, make sure your child is getting the proper amount of sleep. Sleep begets sleep. So going into daylight saving time more well-rested will greatly help your child because he won’t be cranky or overtired, which makes falling asleep even harder and affects the overall quality of sleep.

Be Sympathetic

In the days following daylight saving time, your child may throw an extra tantrum or may seem frustrated or difficult for no particular reason. The time change and sleep disturbances can cause short-term changes in your child’s mood, but understanding and support will him adjust a little better. With all the focus on your child’s sleep, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Many adults feel sluggish and cranky too. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need, so you’re not overly tired and irritable with your child.

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