A Sleep Expert’s Tips to Help You Survive Daylight Saving Time

National All-Parents-Lose-An-Hour-Of-Sleep day is upon us. That’s right, it’s time to fall back with the end of Daylight Saving Time. That means that on Sunday, November 3, 2019, we have to switch our clocks back (I suggest doing so Saturday night before going to sleep), which in theory means we’ll gain an hour but unfortunately our kids’ internal clocks aren’t tuned into this change. Before having children, Daylight Saving Time didn’t have much of an impact on our day-to-day lives, but it’s when you become a parent that you soon realize it’s a HUGE deal in the parenting world. And your little ones will be the first to show you why, when they have trouble going to sleep.

Before you get too stressed out over the time change, let me help you prepare with these tips for adjusting your baby to the fall time change.

1. Before We Begin, Let's Check the Basics

If all babies were the same, it would be easy to jump right into how to adjust your baby's sleep schedule for the fall change, but that isn't the case. We must make sure you have a solid sleep foundation for your baby before frantically skipping ahead to the good stuff. A solid sleep foundation includes three fundamental keys that you need to be sure you are observing.

  • Dark: A great sleep tip is that your baby needs and wants her room to be dark for naps and night sleep. It should be so dark that even during naps when the sun is out, you still can't see. Yes, that dark. You might have every excuse as to why you don't use blackout shades, but for now I will spare you the whys of this suggestion and pinky promise to discuss it at length in another article. Blackout shades are available for all budgets, and you do need them for your baby's room.

  • Noise: Lullabies, ocean sounds, and Mozart are all nice ideas, but the simple fact is, most babies are actually going to be stimulated by anything but a low, rumbly, boring, deep brown noise for sleeping. Many of these other sounds will be lovely for falling asleep initially, but when it comes time to stitch together sleep cycles, these other sound options are going to work against you. They will bring your baby into an alert state when they should still be sleeping.

  • Bedtime: The conventional wisdom is wrong; when it comes to the idea that late bedtime means sleeping-in later in the morning, this is not how most babies respond to a later bedtime. Establish a bedtime routine that includes a bedtime somewhere between 6:30-7:30pm when infant melatonin secretion is at its peak. It might seem counterintuitive but an earlier bedtime helps prevent night wakings and super early wake up times.

Understanding your baby's sleep patterns can also help with transitions like this. Lumi by Pampers™ automatically tracks your baby's sleep, and charts it over time. It then displays the information in easy to read charts so you can see and understand your baby's sleep habits at a glance, helping you make informed de-cisions and establish routine.

2. Good Sleepers Need Less Help

If your baby is already a great sleeper (11-12 hours a night and 2-4 hours of napping a day depending on the age) and waking up between 6am-7am, then you don't need to do anything prior to Daylight Saving Time. Babies who are already champion sleepers and waking up at a reasonable time are going to need about five days to adjust. The adjustment is going to require very little effort on your part and is all done after the time change. You will be responding to the time change, rather than anticipating the time change, and it should look like this:

  • Morning of Daylight Saving Time (Sunday, 11/3)

    • Your baby, who normally wakes at 6am, will now be waking an hour earlier at 5am.

    • When he wakes, hold off for 30 minutes before going into his room to get him. He most likely will not go back to sleep and may even get upset that you aren't getting him. While it's against our instinct to wait to get our little ones, the alternative is that you risk your baby's sleep pattern falling apart completely and the new wake-up time creeping closer to 4am-5am every day.

  • Afternoon of Daylight Saving Time

    • Push your schedule for the day back by 30 minutes. Eating, naps, bath, and bedtime should now all be 30 minutes later.

  • Two-Three Days Following Daylight Saving Time

    • Continue with the 30-minute adjusted schedule for two to three days.

    • Once you've hit three days post-Daylight Saving Time, repeat step one above (for two-three more days), adding 30 additional minutes into the schedule so that you are now pushing everything back by one full hour. This will bring you and your baby back up to the correct wake up time in the morning that it was prior to Daylight Saving Time.

3. Problem Sleepers Need a Proactive Solution

If your baby already struggles in the sleep department, you'll need to be proactive for the time change so you don't wind up with your baby spiraling into an even worse sleep regression. You need to start your sleep transition one week prior to Daylight Saving Time by doing the following:

  • One Week Before Daylight Saving Time

    • Adjust baby's bedtime to be 15 minutes later.

    • In the morning, let your baby stay in his crib for an additional 15 minutes from the time he wakes up. He most likely will not go back to sleep and may even get upset that you aren't getting him. While it's against our instinct to wait to get our little ones, the alternative is that you risk your baby's sleep pattern falling apart completely and the new wake-up time creeping earlier every day.

    • Push your entire day's schedule by 15 minutes. Eating, naps, bath, and bedtime should now all be 15 minutes later.

    • Continue the 15 minute shifts every other day (so you adjust their schedule by 15 minutes for two days, then by another 15 mins for another 2 days) until Daylight Saving Time day and your baby is back to the correct hour for waking up.

  • Two-Three Days Following Daylight Saving Time

    • If your baby is resisting the tiny 15-minute change, give it an extra day— three instead of two for each increment. This means you will be adjusting leading up to the end of Daylight Saving Time and the adjusting will continue into the following few days until your baby is back to the correct wake up hour, which is perfectly fine.

4. Keep Your Child in The Crib Until They Are Three

Resist the urge to put your child under three in a toddler bed. This is relevant all year long, but it becomes especially critical for the fall time change. If your two-year-old has been waking up at 6am and they are in a toddler bed or you are considering putting them into a toddler bed, think about the fact that on the first day of Daylight Saving Time you will have a two-year-old jumping out of bed to roam the house at 5am heading into the kitchen to remove all pots and pans, dig into the bag of dog food, and cram cereal into their ears and nostrils while they are at it. True story. You really do need the crib to assist in a smooth transition for the fall time change. Toddlers aren't developmentally capable of responding to logic and reason the way a three-year-old will. If you were thinking of making the switch, don't do it yet.

5. Get Help From a Parent Coach or Sleep Expert If You Are Stuck

A sleep regression from Daylight Saving Time or jet-lag from changing time zones can negatively impact the sleep hygiene of your entire family. If your baby is struggling with the transition, it may be worth looking up a Sleep or Parenting Expert in your area to get help.

6. Celebrate!

Celebrate your fall time-change victory by sleeping in like one of those actors who appears to sleep so soundly, they actually smile as soon as they wake and have perfectly styled hair, too. Or, if you prefer to celebrate your achievement by waking up 30 minutes early and having 30 minutes of silence in which you can drink a coffee and read the paper, then do that and enjoy your “me time.” You deserve it! The point is, you did it, and that’s no small feat. You masterfully dodged the sleep regression bullet. For even more info on helping your baby sleep soundly, check out our articles on what to do when your baby wakes too early and read up on some common misconceptions about baby sleep.

*Please be aware that your newborns under 12 weeks will not follow these same adjustments for developmental reasons. This post is for children three months to three years old.