Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner! For many people, this means getting a much needed extra hour of blissful sleep! However, the idea of setting the clocks back an hour causes many parents to worry about how it will affect their child’s sleep. This can be especially concerning for parents who already struggle with having a child who wakes up too early. Here are some suggestions on how to handle the upcoming time change:
Simply do nothing. Starting on Sunday, follow your child’s same schedule according to the new time. So, you will still put your child to bed and down for nap at their usual time, even though it will feel like an hour later according to the “old time”. Stay consistent and stick to your child’s normal routine as best you can. Although keep an eye on your child’s sleepy cues and avoid letting your child get too overtired while making the time adjustment. If your child is having a hard time making it the full hour longer before going to bed or going down for nap, adjust his schedule by 15-30 minutes. Within a few days, your child should re-settle into their same sleep schedule.
*Note: this option is typically best suited for children who are older than 2 years and tend to handle change/transition fairly easily.
Gradually adjust your child’s schedule leading up to the time change. About a week before, start putting your child to bed 15 minutes later than their normal bedtime. Every few nights, adjust their bedtime 15 minutes later until the night of the time change. So, by the time the clock changes, you will have shifted your child’s bedtime by an hour and will be back to their normal schedule. For example, if your child normally goes to bed at 7pm, start putting them to bed at 7:15 about a week before the time change. Then, every few nights, extend their bedtime by 15 minutes (7:30, then 7:45) until they are going to bed at 8:00 the night of the time change. Once you set the clock back, your child will be back on their normal schedule. You can also shift nap time by 15 minute increments as well.
*Note: this option is typically best suited for children who are younger than 2 and/or don’t respond well to change.
What to do if your child starts waking up too early after the time change?
Regardless of which option you choose to handle the upcoming time change, your child may inevitably wake-up too early-at least for the first several mornings until their internal body clock has a chance to adjust to the new time. For example, if your child normally wakes up around 6:30am, it’s quite possible that he will wake up around 5:30 am after the time change. Frustrating? Yes! Too early to start his day? Definitely!! But it makes total sense because to your child’s body, 5:30 am still feels like 6:30 am. What’s even worse is if your child is already an early riser (meaning he starts his day before 6:00 am), the time change can cause his wake-up time to be even earlier! Eeeek!
Here’s what you can do to either prevent early rising from becoming a habit or eliminate it if it’s been an ongoing issue for your child leading up to the time change:
- Do not start your child’s day before 6:00 am. Period. If waking too early is a new issue as result of the time change, stay firm on not allowing your child to get up until their normal time (say 6:30) according to the new time. You should see your child’s wake up time adjust back to normal within a few days. If early rising has been an ongoing issue for your child’s sleep patterns, it will likely take implementing some sleep training techniques in order to eliminate the issue and adjust your child’s wake-up time to a more acceptable time.
- Use black-out shades in your child’s room to help make their environment “sleep friendly” and easier to sleep in a little longer in the morning.
- For children older than 2.5, using a wake-up light, such as The GoodNite Lite or My Tot Clock, can help your child understand when it’s ok to get out of bed in the morning.
- Expose your child to natural light in the morning by taking a walk or stroller ride to help re-set his circadian rhythm.
Understand that your child…and even you…may be a little cranky and tired the first few days of the time change. Stay consistent, make sleep a priority and within a week or so, you should see your child’s sleep patterns get back on track.
For more tips on how to get your “early bird” to sleep longer, see my blog post about The Causes of Early Rising.
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