Calling all parents of early-risers, this one’s for you! Daylight Savings Time is upon us and that means that your little one who wakes at 5:43 every single day, on-the-dot, no matter what you do will suddenly be waking at 6:43- score! But it’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows, DST can bring a host of other sleep issues as well, most notably, come bedtime when it’s still bright out and your little one does not feel like sleeping! Luckily, there’s a few things that you can do to help ease this transition and get or keep your child’s sleep on track.
I recommend choosing how you’d like to deal with DST (or not) based off of your child’s schedule, their age, temperament, and your parenting style. Do remember though that there is no wrong way!
Option 1- The Gradual Transition
This option is best for little ones who are sensitive sleepers and younger children who are still having one or more naps. You can do a gradual transition starting either before time change or afterwards.
Before Time Change: Starting in the week before Daylight Savings Time begins, slowly shift your child’s feeding and sleep patterns by moving their wake up, feeds and naps earlier by 10-15 min every day for the 3-5 days previous to time change. If you want to shift things even slower, you can start earlier and only change things every two days. Once the clocks change, you will go back to their regularly timed schedule. It’s also ok if you don’t fully adjust beforehand, every little bit will help.
After Time Change: Starting the day after time change, you will still use your child's biological clock ie. 8pm (an hour later on the actual clock) but shift your child's feeding and sleep patterns earlier by 10-15 min every day ie. wake them at 7:45am which will feel like 6:45am. Although it will be later on the clock than their usual times, it will feel like it's 10-15 min earlier with each change. Eventually, their body will have adjusted and the time on the clock will also be adjusted back to their regular schedule.
Option 2- Split the Difference
This option is best for older babies and children, and ones that are on 2 or less naps and if you still want to prepare but you're a weekend warrior! This option is perfect if you're stuck because you can't shift your child's schedule the week before or after time change thanks to a work and daycare schedule that you still have to line up with. All you do is start on Saturday night by putting them to bed a half an hour early. Note that you may need to wake them early in the morning or from a nap and/or tucker them out a bunch during the day so they'll actually go to sleep! Then overnight, the time will change and you'll try to let them sleep in by a half an hour (if they will). On the clock, this will actually look like they're waking up a half an hour early. Then, on Sunday night, you'll put them down at their regular time again and continue on with that!
Option 3- Jump Right In
This option is best for older babies and children, ones who aren’t phased with sleep issues or if you are big on flying by the seat of your pants and didn’t realize it was “spring forward” until it’s here (we’ve all been there!). It’s simple, you just do everything as normal according to the time on the clock. This will mean that your littles will feel like they’re going to bed an hour earlier the following day so don’t be surprised if their biological clock keeps them up for a while and they have trouble going to sleep until their body adjusts. Try to do very stimulating activities to help them burn some energy and feel more ready to sleep come bedtime.
This is also a great opportunity to shift your little one's schedule if they're an early riser or if you'd just like your child's schedule shifted an hour later to enjoy the longer evenings in the summer time. Although these both sound like a wonderful, magical fix do remember that it doesn't fix the cause of the original early waking so it could come right back once your child is adjusted. If this is the case, check out my "Ending Early Wakes Course" here to help you get to the root cause of the early mornings so that you can finally get a sleep in!
Also note that some children don't do well on a schedule that's shifted later. If you try to keep the later schedule so you can enjoy more evening time with your children but start to notice other sleep or behavioural issues, this might be an indicator that your child isn't ready for a later bedtime and you might need to shift them back.
Whichever way you choose to go, there’s adjustments that you can do to make the transition go smoother.
Set the tone for sleep at least an hour before bed- At first, your child isn’t going to feel like sleeping because it’s brighter out and their circadian rhythm will push them to stay awake for another hour. Help counteract this by doing things that will promote sleep at least an hour before bed. This means no screens, dim the lights, either do quiet, calming activities (for young or really sensitive sleepers) or activities that will help your little one burn off extra energy (often the case for toddlers!). This will help increase the release of the hormone melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and will help signal that it’s time to wind down.
Darken the sleep space- With DST comes a later sunset, that brightness at bedtime can make it really difficult for little ones to fall asleep. This is where blackout blinds are a must! I have a few favorites, they’re all blinds that I personally use with my kiddos and love! My fav’s are BlackoutEZ blinds, Sleepout curtains (SLEEPYBUNNY10 for 10% off), and the Slumberpod US/Can (SLEEPYBUNNY$20 for $20 off)! Check out my blog post to help you choose which solution would be best for your situation.
Get outside early in the day- Our bodies sleep/wake cycle is controlled by our circadian rhythm, which is regulated by light exposure. To help get their sleep schedule shifted back on track asap, try to get outside to get some light exposure in the morning as much as possible, this will kick start their circadian rhythm to start to shift their day, helping them be ready for sleep at their actual bedtime.
Also remember that this transition can take up to two weeks to adjust so don’t worry if they seem to still be struggling as the nights keep rolling on. However, if your babes sleep continues to be disrupted beyond this point, feel free to reach out here. I’d be happy to help you with getting them back on track.
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant