Prepare NOW for a smoother transition. It will be here Nov 7th. We will set the clocks back before bed Sat Nov 6th.
While those without children might get an extra hour of sleep with the “fall back”, this time change could effect your baby or child’s sleep and your whole next few weeks, so here are some tips to help ease the transition, beforehand. This is the easier of the time change and could even help you fix some sleep challenges, so don’t sweat it.
1 A) If your child has a regular bedtime that’s working:
Start now by moving bedtime later. You can do this over 4 nights in 15min increments or over two nights in half-hour increments. By Sunday night you’re set. Let your child wake up incrementally later in the morning, in equal amounts to how late they stayed up -if possible- as well but not more than an hour after 4 nights. Or let them wake whenever they do in the morning (Ideal to set an ok-to-wake time for toddlers or preschoolers to leave the room and turn on lights).
1 B) If you child currently goes to bed later than you want:
Daylight Savings end is a great time to move your child’s bedtime a bit earlier if you got all out of wack. Just move bedtime later by half an hour the same night you set the clocks back. That allows you to split the difference and after the change night, your child will then be going to bed just a half hour “later” than they did before. So if bedtime was 9pm, the clock Sunday night will say 8pm during your child’s regular bedtime but they should be plenty sleepy (8:30 on their internal clock). So you now have a new technically earlier bedtime that still feels like sleepy time to your child. It will be plenty dark outside and if your child is old enough to ask about the time, just say we are following what the light is doing and it is now dark earlier.
Even if you can’t get your child to sleep in at all at first, still move naps gradually later with these plans and all will even out in a couple of days. So wake may be the same or earlier, but nap might be 15/30min later so your little one isn’t too tired by bedtime.
If you wish your child’s bedtime was even earlier than what I suggest above and you aren’t worried about them waking up early, you can do that as a next step further into the month when it will begin to feel extra dark. We are animals meant to hibernate just a bit/ sleep a bit more and certainly earlier as long as it is dark when they go to bed, for optimal melatonin production.
We have been essentially messing with our children’s newly acquired sense of biological circadian rhythms with this Daylight Savings mumbo jumbo. We are not meant to be awake late hours in the dark months and we are not supposed to have night sleep when it is light out in the Summer and forcing this on our little ones’ bodies simply isn’t fair. So it may sound counter-intuitive to go to sleep later when it is already dark outside before the change, but it is a very temporary way to mitigate this bizarre change. Children will adapt.
Tip 2) Just Find the Sun and Find the Dusk. The first night after you set the clocks to fall back, Monday night, get outside at dusk for a long walk or swim with your baby/child in the early evening at dusk and begin to align with circadian rhythms. Likely they have gotten a bit off. Get back in alignment with the planet’s turning right before you make the clock change so it isn’t quite as much of a jolt. Keep lights low in the home after this. We are meant to get about an hour more sleep in the dark months so take advantage of this for your child’s health and for your health as well! Get more sleep and balance that by spending plenty of outdoor time, especially whenever there is Fall or Winter sun and expose some of your skin and your child’s skin for that Vitamin D! We walk with sleeves rolled up and sit on my porch with our pants rolled up and faces in the sun! Daytime sun helps your body regulate the hormones cortisol and melatonin and that will help you all sleep better at night! With enough outdoor time through this time change sat, sun, monday- you can follow the planet rather than the clock and not have to think so hard about the numbers.
Tip 3) Temporary blackout mornings. When the end of daylight savings commences and we put our child to bed earlier than we have been, they may temporarily wake up earlier as their bodies get used to the new schedule- even having gone to bed an hour later with the gradual plan. The time change situation being so superficial and temporary, you can temporarily use black out shades the first few mornings of this change! I say temporarily because generally I advise against them; they disrupt our circadian rhythms ( never use them for naps!). But with our very unnatural daylight savings change, we can use the shades as a morning crutch to preserve parent sanity. Remember to open the curtains gradually to allow your child to wake up less harshly in the morning.
Tip 4) Resist temptation to sleep in. It should be bright earlier so children should be waking earlier, and if not earlier, at their regular time and not later. Most kids will simply not sleep in late at first when you’ve had them go to bed later- but some might, especially if you are using blackout shads! We won’t want this because late waking will effect circadian rhythms, later melatonin production and could make them not sleepy enough at bedtime. Though it may be tempting, we all sleep better at night if we awaken not too long after the sun so sleeping super late isn’t optimal for anyone. You’ll be so cozy under your fall blankets, I know, but resist temptation! It can really make the next night a struggle to get to bed on time. If your kids are up and happy early at 5:30 or later at first, just get up. If losing an hour makes your child extra sleepy, add an extra bit of nap time that day, just not too close to dinner, or move bedtime up no more than a half hour. Be careful not to let naps go late into the day. Napping during dusk darkness is one of the worst things we can do for nighttime sleep and makes for very cranky nap awakenings.
5) Go OUTSIDE as early as you can. The more the body is exposed to the day’s light as we end Daylight Savings and Fall Back, the easier bedtime will be and the better they will sleep. Remember to take that walk for fresh air if they are having trouble staying awake for your gradual plan. All of the above goes for you too, parents! Though I suspect you will be up late watching all the fantastic Netflix Fall series and ignoring all this great sleep circadian rhythm science. Hah! But get up in the morning and take the cuties outside right after breakfast, for a long while in the daytime if you can and for at least 15 min at dusk.
6) Say F*ck it and relax about it– Maybe you’re not worried. Worst case scenario, you might have a couple hard nights where it takes your kiddo a while to fall asleep. They will adapt and it will even out in a few days. It can seem like if we go to bed, or put our children to bed suddenly at the new time, we are all getting an extra hour of sleep, unfortunately it just won’t work this way and the science proves it. One study found adults who suddenly take this “extra” hour of sleep wake up more frequently at night in the week following the change. This is because each human body only needs a certain and unique amount of total sleep. If you take away sleep we may need a nap or an earlier nap. If you add sleep, you might get up too early or have extra night waking. Usually children will wake up too early at this change no matter what we do. I’m mainly trying to help above with preventing difficult bedtimes.
There are two ways make bedtime successful at all times, not just the time change…
A) Let your child have enough sleep pressure- not trying to get them to sleep before they are tired just because the clocks changed and
B) Make sure they have the opportunity to make melatonin (all babies 4mo and older) by working on circadian rhythms and exposures to light and dark at the ideal times, as I explain above.
P.S. If you are having many wake-ups, too-early mornings already check out my Sleep Support Offerings for online courses and private consulting.
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