By Brittney Stefanic
The end of daylight saving time is coming up this weekend on Sunday, November 3rd. For most of us, this signals the true start of winter as the evening sunlight begins to fade earlier and earlier each night. The good news? With our “fall back” coming up on Sunday morning at 2 a.m., we will all gain an extra hour of sleep! YAHOO!
If I had it my way, there would not be a daylight saving time anymore. The original purpose of changing the clocks to allow for better use of daylight hours for field work and farming is becoming more and more obsolete because of modern-day technology. In addition, this one hour change, twice per year, has an impact on the sleep patterns of children and adults.
These changes 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 young children struggling most with the time change. As a sleep expert, I have already gotten TONS of questions about how to handle this one hour “falling back” change with little ones. So, what is the best way to handle it?
Tips BEFORE the clocks fall back for adjusting kids’ routine for daylight savings: Make gradual change as much as possible.
If you want to be proactive OR you have a chronic early riser, you will be better off to make the change BEFORE Sunday. The timing will depend on how many days ahead of time you want to start, but essentially, you will push nap time and bedtime a bit later each day so that you are one full hour later by Saturday night. Then, magically on Sunday, you'll be back on track. TADA!
If you want to start on Wednesday, October 30th:
If you want to start on Thursday, October 31st(Happy Halloween)!
If you want to start on Friday, November 1st:
There isn't a great way to start with the change on Saturday, soooooo if you are reading this Saturday (November 2nd) or later, go ahead and make the changes AFTER you change the clocks to fall back!
Tips AFTER the clocks fall back for adjusting kids’ routine for daylight savings: Split the difference
If you aren't up for making changes before you change the clocks, that's fine! Waiting until Sunday will be totally do-able. For this, I recommend leaving the clocks alone on Sunday morning so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier than normal.
Go ahead and get up at your usual time and start the day, and then go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me! Obviously, our phones and other devices will change automatically, but unless you have a place to be early Sunday morning, just leave those bad boys on the charger and wait until later to take a peek.
So, after you’ve had a bit of breakfast, a nice warm cup of coffee and maybe even a Sunday morning dance party in your kitchen, go ahead and move your clocks back and allow yourself to look at any devices that have automatically changed on their own. Now, it will be exciting that it’s only 8:00 and you’ve already had a great start to your day!
Nap and bedtime tips after the clocks fall back: Day 1-3
Let’s address the change in schedule for your little one(s). If, for example, your child usually takes a morning nap around 9:30, you will adjust this to 9:00 for the three days after the time change, including Sunday. 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. If she normally naps at 2:00, her nap on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday should start at 1:30. We are splitting the difference here by asking them to adjust their schedule by 30 minutes rather than the full hour.
We will do the same thing in the evening. For bedtime, let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7:00, we will use the same half-hour change. For a usual 7:00 bedtime, I recommend putting your child to bed at 6:30 for the first three days following the time change, just as we did with naps.
This same bedtime tip applies for children who are no longer napping and adults, too. Just move bedtime 30 minutes earlier for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to allow for a more gradual adjustment period.
Making up the full hour of the time change after the clocks fall back: Day 4 and beyond
Please note that for all of these changes, the nap times and bedtimes will FEEL later for your kiddos (since we moved our clocks back), and it will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everyone’s body roughly one week to adjust any kind of change in sleeping habits, and our kiddos are no exception.
Once the 3 days have passed with the 30 minute schedule adjustment, you will now be ready for the whole hour change, so you can put your child to nap and to bed at their normal time (before the clock change) starting with the first nap of the day on Wednesday. For the example above, naps would return to 9:30 and 2:00 and bedtime would revert to 7:00. Again, this will take a few days to feel routine, but by the weekend things should be feeling back to normal.
Bonus tip: How to prevent early morning wake ups after the clocks fall back
One last tip, when we change the clocks this way, our sunsets happen earlier and our sunrises do, too. The great news is that we no longer have to worry about putting the kids to bed when it is light out, but this makes early morning wake ups a bit more common. Make sure their rooms are dark to block out that early morning sunshine.
If you are struggling with an early riser, the few days after the time change have the potential to be pretty brutal in your house because a 5 am wake up in late October becomes a 4 am wake up in early November. But don't worry... I've got you covered! I recently wrote a blog post for Sleeping Baby on the 4 am wake which you can find here just in case you need to recover from that struggle.
Oh and if you have a toddler, pre-schooler or school-age kiddo in your house, you may consider investing in a wake up clock. There are quite a few options on the market, but finding one that fits the age and ability of your little one is key. Some change colors, some have sounds, some have numbers so find the one that is the best fit for your family. Remind your kiddo that only after the clock changes is it morning time, and then be prepared to reward them for staying in their bed until the decided upon time!
Happy clock change!
Brittney Stefanic is a whole-family certified sleep consultant. As an enneagram 1 and recovering perfectionist, she gets that an upcoming change like daylight saving time ending can be daunting. As an educator, Brittney believes in the power of teaching and loves to support families in meeting their sleep goals (and overcoming sleep changes) through her customized sleep plans. You can follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook @brittneystefanicsleep for access to her free sleep tips and tricks and opportunities for free sleep Q&A sessions.