Mark your calendars for Sunday, November 6th, 2022; it’s finally daylight saving time for the U.S.! Many of us will be feeling those colder temperatures and that means the sun will start setting earlier as well.
When we “fall back” on November 6th, your little angel, who has been waking up at 7 am, will now wake at 6 am! So for all you parents out there with early risers, daylight saving time (DST) in the fall is something you can prep for in advance so you can try to avoid some super early wakeup calls!
“Falling back” is more difficult for babies and toddlers than “springing forward” because we are trying to teach their internal clock to sleep in longer, which is just hard for them to do.
So here are a few different options to help you prepare for this change based on your family’s needs and your child’s age:
Option 1: Don’t Change A Thing!
Yup, you read that right! If you were already still on a ‘summer schedule’ and actually need your child to start going to bed roughly an hour earlier and waking up in the morning an hour earlier than you can just have them wakeup at their ‘normal’ time on Sunday, November 6th. So that normal 8am wakeup time would look like 7am on DST and therefore you would put them to bed an hour earlier than you usually do as well so that it matches with the new time. This is also the philosophy you would use for newborns since they really aren’t on a ‘schedule’ yet!
Option 2: Gradual Approach
This option is perfect if you are a planner and have a child who is sensitive to change and/or recently went through a nap transition. With this method, on the Tuesday morning before DST (November 1st), you would take your child out of their crib/bed approximately 10 minutes later than usual (so 7:10 am instead of the regular 7 am) and move naps, meals, and bedtime later by around 10 minutes as well. Then each day that week, you aim to take your child out of their sleep space an additional 10 minutes later and keep moving bedtime later. Come Sunday morning, your little one will be waking up around their typical pre-DST wakeup time!
This method can sometimes feel a bit complex for some but the way to approach it is to just have your end goal come Sunday as perhaps not exactly back to your previous sleep schedule but to a place where you feel you got close enough to it without overwhelming your child!
Option 3: Weekend Approach
This is my favorite for those who can’t change their schedule during the week leading up to DST and for younger toddlers who are less sensitive to change. Thursday morning, your child would wake up at their usual time and have meals and naps at their typical times as well. However, Thursday night, you would put your child down to sleep 15 minutes later than usual. On Friday morning, wake them/take them out of their sleep space approximately 15 minutes later than their normal wakeup time and move their nap(s)15 minutes later as well. Continue to do this on Saturday an additional 15 minutes later for naps and meals, and then Sunday morning, your child will be waking up close to their pre-DST wakeup time! You likely will just need to keep working on this the next few days as well to continue to help their bodies adjust and get closer to their previous sleep schedule. It’s not a ‘perfect’ approach but it gives you a leg up!
Option 4: Day Of Approach
And lastly, my favorite option for toddlers and preschoolers, you can just start the morning of daylight saving time by waiting to get your child out of their bed/crib ~30 minutes after their usual wakeup time. So if they normally get up at 7am, the morning of DST you would try to wait until as close to 6:30am (will feel like 7:30am to their body) to get them out in the morning. I like this method best for children on just one or no nap because they are less affected by this shift in their schedule. You then try that evening to get as close to their normal bedtime (so if 7pm was their previous bedtime aim for bedtime between 6:30pm-7pm) and then the following week you continue to help their internal clock work towards the new time.
Alongside your chosen approach, you can make changes to your child’s sleep environment and their activity level to further help make this a smooth transition for them:
Use those toddler clocks to help you prep! When you decide which approach is best for you, adjust the toddler clock in your child’s room to match the time you want them getting up in the morning so that they see the time you are getting them out still match the color and/or digital display time that they typically see. This goes for bedtime too! So depending on the method you go with you may just need to keep adjusting that clock for a few days leading up to DST.
When trying to push that bedtime later each day, exposure to natural sunlight in the late afternoon is so important! That natural melatonin can be used to your advantage!
Patience Pays Off
Unfortunately this can and often does result in some very early morning risers. So if your child is waking up at 5am and that really doesn’t work for your family, make sure to stay firm to your preferred wakeup time and keep their room as dark as possible to further help cue to their body that it is still nighttime. Light, both natural and artificial, is very stimulating to the body and can signal to the circadian rhythm that it’s time to get up – so definitely not a message you want to be sending if the goal is for a later wakeup!