On Sunday 26 October, 02:00am, clocks go backwards by 1 hour, so we get an extra hours sleep, therefore an end to daylight savings time. Changing the clocks twice a year, has an affect on us all and can increase our sleep debt. It it especially noticeable in babies, toddlers and young children as they tend to have a structured sleep pattern, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.
Every year I get a TON of questions asking for the best way to handle Daylight Savings Time and children’s sleep.
So here it is:
If I had it my way, there would be no Daylight Savings Time. I think not only does it really affect children’s sleep patterns, but adults as well. In fact, statistically there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. It really does have an affect on all of us and it can increase our sleep debt — especially in children who 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 is usually why people notice it the most in young children.
So what is the best way to handle it?
My advice is to “split the difference.”
For “Fall Back”: My recommendation to all parents is that they just leave their clocks alone 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 a 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!
If for example your little one usually takes a morning nap round 9:30, you will adjust this to 9:00 am for the 3 days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap.
Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7 PM, I recommend putting that child to bed at 6:30 PM for the first 3 days following the time change. (This will FEEL like 7:30 to your child.) And it will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everybody’s body roughly one week to adjust any kind of change in sleeping habits.
If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minute numerals, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. I would just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30, it reads 7:00 and I would let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, they would be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.
If you are dealing with a baby, you cannot do that. Do not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, because you do not want to send a message that getting up at 6 a.m. is okay now. So if she normally wakes at 7:00am, but is now up at 6:00, you will wait till ten after on the first day, and then twenty after the next, then 6:30 the next day and, by the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and waking up at their usual hour.
On the 4th night, just get in line with the new time. So your baby is back to going to bed when the clock says 7:00 pm, and adjust naps to the correct time on day 4 as well.