Get Ahead of Daylight Savings Time Now

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This Sunday, Nov. 2, is the end of daylight saving time, as we fall back one hour. That means a bit more sunlight in the morning, but much earlier sunsets. This change rattles me each and every year, and it seems like every single parent has at least a bit of apprehension for daylight saving time. With toddlers and babies, especially, the normal 7 a.m. wake-up becomes 6 a.m. instead. Our little cubs get into their routines of sleep, and that thing they call the circadian rhythm. When you mess with the clock, you mess with these rhythms.

This year instead of just pushing through, a little preparation can help for a smoother transition without frustration and sleep deprivation. The founder of Healthy Happy Sleep child sleep consuting in Atlanta, and mother of 6, Laura Swartz shares some guidelines to follow in the days leading up to daylight saving time. Overall rule of thumb, even though it seems counter-intuitive, working toward an earlier bedtime will result in a later wake-time, which is ideal when the time falls back.

Guidelines for children who are on the sleepy side of the spectrum:

Start with naps. In the days leading up to the time change, plan to start naptime 15-30 minutes earlier than normal. If you have a highly sensitive child, go for 15 minutes. If your child is easily adaptable, 30 minutes is perfect. For example, if your child usually goes down at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., change it to 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Bedtime. Bedtime will follow suit and begin a bit earlier as well. Even if this means putting your child to bed at 5/5:30 p.m., do it! You’ll reap the reward when the time change is at your doorstep because all of this great rest will result in a healthy sleeper and a later wake-up time!

For children who no longer nap, simply move bedtime 30 minutes earlier. When their wake-up time regulates you can move the bedtime hour back to normal after the time change.

When they are sleeping 11-12 hours at night, napping for at least an hour for each nap, and falling asleep quickly for each sleep period, follow the guidelines below in the three to four days before the time change.

For children who are well rested and have predictable sleep patterns:

Naps still matter. Two to three days before the time change, begin moving the naptimes 15-30 minutes later. If you have a highly sensitive child, go for 15 minutes. If your child is easily adaptable, 30 minutes is perfect. If you find that they have trouble falling asleep now that you’ve pushed them later, or wake up earlier from their naps, go back to their normal time and follow the advice above. With a well-rested child, this should push their wake-time later slightly. After two to three days with no negative effects, move their naptime 15-30 minutes later again. The later naps will naturally push bedtime a bit later as well. In a well-rested child, this will result in a later wake-time, so that when the time falls back an hour, they will be waking up at their normal, healthy time. Everything will fall in line with the usual routine at the new times.

For well-rested children who no longer nap, just move their bedtime 15-30 minutes later every two to three days until the wake-up time is in line with their usual hour for the new time. If you find they are waking up earlier in the morning, push bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes instead. Early wake-ups are a sign of an overtired child!

Many parents use the wait-and-see approach which works well for some kids, especially those who are well rested, but for those who like to plan ahead this method can be frustrating. This is a good way to handle it if you’re not sure whether or not your child is in the well-rested versus overtired category. For this method, don’t do anything until the time has moved back. Prepare for an early wake-up and regulate your child’s schedule gradually until by the third or fourth day they’re right on track with the new time schedule. Generally this means putting them down for their nap/bedtime 30 minutes later than usual (based on the new time) for two to three days, then another 30 minutes later until they’re regulated.

The best way to combat the stress of it all is to make sure you get to bed early so that you’re bright and cheery regardless of when your little one decides to start the day.