Daylight Saving Time Ending: Enjoy the Extra Hour of Sleep…
Updated: Jan 1
Psych!! You're a Parent!!
As a sleep consultant, I suspect my upcoming Q&As are going to be filled with ONE main question… “How should I handle the ending of Daylight Saving?”
My answer might surprise you…
Do… nothing. I would rather course-correct than try to make changes ahead of time. You can find lots of articles out there about making changes in your child’s sleep before the time change, so if you like that option then one of those articles will be helpful to you! But in this article I will share how I have always handled the end of Daylight Saving, and how I instruct my clients to handle it.
I always like to explain what’s really going on with sleep when I answer a sleep question, so let’s start with a science lesson.
Daylight Saving ends Sunday, November 6, 2022 at 2:00 am. This means that our clocks will “fall back”, and show one hour earlier than previously. The time that our bodies wake up in the morning will actually be an hour before our alarm. This is great news, to some people because they can just go back to sleep until the alarm clock says the right time! But to us parents, it means that our baby and toddlers will be our alarm clock one hour before the clock says it’s time to wake up. We will drag ourselves out of bed, start the day, and finally evening comes. Now that the clocks show one hour earlier, it will seem like the sun is setting quite early in the evening and darkness will rule. The darkness plus our bodies feeling like it is an hour later than the clock says will cause your child, and us adults to feel like we can barely make it to bedtime. However in order to adjust our circadian rhythm to the new time it’s important that you adhere to the new time as soon as possible.
How can we get our circadian rhythm in line with the new time? It’s all about darkness, light, and meal times. According to the Sleep Foundation, “circadian rhythms are daily cycles the human body naturally carries out, which are driven by a master clock in the brain and informed by external factors like light and food,” (1). Before we go into the sleep aspect of Daylight Saving, it’s important to understand and implement these three key factors on the day the clocks turn back:
1. Keep it relatively dark in the early morning hours so that your child’s body does not take light cues that 6:00 am is when she should wake up. When you get your child up and are ready to start the day, do some quiet play in a dimmer living room before breakfast. 15-30 minutes would be ideal. Avoid turning on all the lights of the house, but rather a select few as you are going through breakfast/the morning feeding (make sure your baby stays WIDE AWAKE for the morning feeding!!). Once it is not an ungodly hour (let’s say, 7:00 am) you can turn the lights on, letting her body know that this is the time that’s appropriate for waking. Expose your child to bright natural sunlight once it is the set wake-up time that you would like. Take your child outside for a bit in the morning to soak up the rays.
2. Keep it bright in the late afternoon/evening hours as you are attempting to shift your child’s circadian rhythm to the new time. Your child may seem like he wants to go to bed an hour earlier, since to your child the 8:00 pm time that your child is experiencing internally is only 7:00 pm on the clock. Take a walk in the late afternoon hours before the sun sets to expose your child to natural light. Keep the lights in the house on until about 30 minutes before bed, when you can start to dim them.
3. Shift your child’s meal times later. This is something that is often missed. There are two reasons why you need to do this. First, so that your baby or toddler doesn’t continue to wake up early due to breakfast/lunch/dinner being too early in the day (as our tummies may still be on the old time!), and second, our digestive system actually controls part of our circadian rhythm! This can override the circadian rhythm established in our brains (2). Try to hold off on breakfast/the morning feed just 30 minutes in the morning after an early morning wake-up due to the time change. Make sure that your lunch, dinner, and bedtime feeding/snack aligns with the new time.
What About the Schedule?
I’m sure the reason why you wanted to read this article was to find out when to put your baby down for naps and bedtime in order to avoid an early morning wake-up call! So let’s get with it!
Newborns: Newborns don’t have established circadian rhythms yet, so making this change will be easy. You could start the day early and have one more eat, play, sleep cycle consisting of one extra nap that day. You could also just feed your newborn when she wakes up too early, treating it like a night feed, and put your newborn back to bed until the clock says 6:30-8:00 am. Your newborn should adjust in the following days.
Infants between 3-6 months with one feeding at night: Much like newborns, it’s okay to start the day early, but it works better if you attempt to leave your baby in the crib until 30-45 minutes before the set start of your day (according to the new time). The good thing is that you know your baby is not hungry since she already woke up once for a feeding. You could also do a second feed, as mentioned above, but be careful since infants can start habits quickly and that early morning feed can stick around too long. Trying to get that middle-of-the night feeding 30 minutes-1 hour later in the night can also shift your baby’s wake-up time, since a baby typically sleeps about 3 hours after the night feeding.
Infants 6-12 months old: This is the age that can get extremely tough. It’s unlikely that your infant can stay in the crib for 13 hours, so expecting your infant to just chill until it’s time to get up is a far-fetched dream. If your infant wakes up an hour early, try to leave him in the crib for 30 extra minutes. Then get your infant up and follow the light/darkness/meal time instructions above. If your infant is crying in the crib, you may find that it is easier not to pop in, as that can increase the crying.
Toddlers and Preschoolers: Toddlers and preschoolers now really like those “set” times to wake up and go to bed, regardless of how long they have been awake or have been sleeping. This gets tricky when trying to go against their body’s circadian rhythm. But they also understand the concept of “waiting until the clock is green”, or “waiting until the sun is up” to get up. Having a visual cue of when a toddler can get up is extremely helpful to navigating the time change. If you have a Hatch sound machine or a toddler clock, make sure that the clock will cue green at the correct time. I believe the Hatch does this on its own, but a less sophisticated toddler clock will need to be manually set to the correct time. Practice adhering to the clock’s color ahead of time, making a fun game out of it with a tangible incentive, or at least lots of encouragement. (“Yay, you did it! You stayed in bed until the clock was green!”) When your child wakes early on the day of the time change, remind your child that he can get out of bed when the clock is green. If you do not have a toddler clock, remind your child that you will get him when it is morning time. Then avoid going in until 6:00-6:15 am. You might want to reset your toddler clock earlier for a few days so that your toddler can experience a win of adhering to the clock. Avoid putting your child down earlier than your set nap time. Remember not to shift snack and lunch too early if your child has an early morning waking! By keeping nap time at the same time, it ensures that bedtime isn’t shifted too early and allows your child to adjust quickly to the new time.
What If My Child Keeps Waking Early?
If your infant or child gets into a cycle of early wakings and never adjusts to the new time there could be one of two things going on, or even both.
1. Something is reinforcing the early waking: This could be how you respond to the wake up (getting the child up too early, helping the child back to sleep, staying with your child until it’s time to wake up, even screens or milk as soon as a toddler/child gets up!). Reevaluate how you are handling the early waking and take necessary steps to remove that reinforcement. We already discussed light being a key factor in making this transition, so if you do not already have total blackout curtains, I highly recommend making this investment even before the time change happens. Making sure that it is pitch black in your child’s room will signal to the brain that it’s time to sleep. Even a small sliver of light can trigger the brain to wake up more fully. Having those blackout curtains will be necessary in the spring time change, when your child is attempting to fall asleep at bedtime when it’s completely light outside. Here are my favorite blackout options: (*affiliate links*)
Blackout EZ Window Covers: So far these are the best window covers I have come across.
Redi Shade Fabric Blackout Shade: Make sure it’s blackout, not light-filtering!
Rio Salto Portable Blackout Curtains with Suction Cups (a great solution when you cannot put
permanent curtains/shades up)
100% Blackout Curtains with Rod Pockets: The rod pockets will block out more light than the typical
curtains hung by rings.
2. Your child’s sleep needs changed in the midst of this Daylight Saving mess and the schedule needs to be tweaked. Schedule-changes occur constantly in the first 3-4 years. It seems like as soon as we get on a good schedule your baby is signaling that they need yet another schedule change! So don’t take this out of the equation, even if it seemed to correlate with the time-change.
If your baby or toddler is struggling after the time change, book a FREE 15-minute phone assessment HERE so we can chat more about what might be the problem and what support BraveHeart Consulting can offer through a sleep package.