Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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How To Adjust Your Little One’s Sleep Schedule to Daylight Savings “Fall Back”

Daylight Savings is almost here! Are you prepared to “Fall Back”?

During fall back, your child may normally wake up at 6:30 am, but now that is 5:30 am.

If her bedtime was previously 7:00 pm, now that is 6 pm by the clock.

As if 6:30 am wasn’t painful enough already? What is a gal to do?

Let’s remember our main sleep tenet is that “sleep begets sleep”.  

The more well rested a child, the easier it will be to have that child fall asleep and then stay asleep.  

The biggest mistake parents make is trying to tackle the time change in one night and keeping children up that extra hour at bedtime.  

This can be counter productive as when a child is kept up too long, it can be harder to get them to sleep, they are at risk of night waking, AND they will still likely wake up at the same time the next day.


There’s an old addage:  

Kids who go to bed early wake up early,

Kids who go to bed late wake up early.

With a baby less than 18 months, keeping them up 1 hour later has a bigger impact than for toddlers. If you try and manage the time change in one move, you put your child at risk of 3 things:

  1. Trouble settling at bedtime, as she’s now been awake 1 hour longer than usual
  2. Night waking, because she’s a little overtired
  3. Potentially even earlier wake up, because she’s overtired

This ties into the old adage that “Sleep begets sleep”. The more well rested a child is, the better he/she will sleep. Techniques to put into practice:

Here’s the secret:  you work on time change starting with naps and then bedtime.

For Babies, less than 18 months, you can work on the time change by shifting their schedule over 3-4 days in 15 minute increments.

Start with the first nap of the day pushing it 15 minutes later.  All the other naps and bedtime that day will be 15 minutes later than the day before due to the cascade effect.  

Each day shift the first nap put down another 15 minutes later.  Again, this will cascade to the rest of the day’s nap put downs and bedtime.  

Finally, on day 4, her first nap put down will now be shifted by 1 hour total from day 1.  

You would do this increasingly over the next 4 days, so the bedtime would shift to 6:15, 6:30, 6:45, and finally 7 pm.

That should gradually shift her wake up time by about 15 minutes.

Toddlers:

Toddlers are less susceptible to becoming “overtired” compared to infants. So with a toddler you can shift the schedule with bigger time chunks compared to an infant.

What does that look like?  

For a toddler who is on 1 or 2 naps, you can elongate the midday awake time, and keep your child up longer during the middle of the day, instead of right before bedtime.  

You could implement the shift over two days in 30 minute adjustments. If they normally nap at 1 pm, (which is now 12),  you would put them down at 12:30 pm the new time.  The second day you would put them down at 1 pm the new time.

This will cascade into bedtime. If regular bedtime is 7 pm, they will go down at 6:30 pm the new time on day 1, and 7 pm new time on day 2. This will naturally shift their wake up time in the morning.

The people I feel most sorry for during Fall Back, are the parents of 10 and 11 month olds.  There’s quite a bit of teething that happens during these months and these kids are more prone to early wake ups (EWUs) already.

It is very common to see 5:30 am wake ups in these kids as is.  In addition, many of them are starting to sleep through the night, 11 hrs, without feeding, which doesn’t allow them to sleep longer than 11-12 hrs.  

My advice for those teethers: Advil for the kids, wine for the parents, and early bedtimes for everyone.

Interested in learning more about how to optimize your little one’s sleep?  Come join my online sleep class….

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Online Sleep Class for ages 4-24 months: Tell Me More

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