Dr. Sarah Mitchell
About Author

How to Adjust your Baby Sleep to the Ending of Daylight Saving Time [2021]? Top 3 Ways Recommended by Baby Sleep Expert

Daylight Savings is about to end. Are you prepared to “Fall Back”?

The Purpose of Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings times end this year on November 7, 2021.  In the summer months, we have more hours of daylight and the purpose of daylight savings time is to shift an hour of that light into the evening.  Otherwise in the summer it would be light out by 5 am!   In the fall, we end daylight savings time as the winter months have less hours of daylight and we shift those hours back to the morning so that it’s not dark until 8 am. 
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?

Don't Make This Major Mistake Many Parents Do:

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.

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.  

With a baby less than 12 months, keeping them up 1 hour later has a bigger impact than for older 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.

3 Ways to Help Adjust Your Little One's Schedule to "Fall Back"

  1. Do Nothing Approach
  2. Retroactively shift their schedule starting on Sunday
  3. Proactively shift their schedule before Sunday

The Do Nothing Approach

Don’t try and shift their schedule at all.  Their 5 am wake up also means their bedtime will be one hour earlier.  This can be useful for parents who had late wake ups and need to get kids up earlier to go to preschool.  

Example.  Your baby was waking at 7 am and sleeping by 8 pm.  Now that is shifted to 6 am and 7 pm asleep bedtime.  

Do nothing and enjoy your new schedule.  This scenario is not very common. 

Retroactively Shift Their Schedule Starting On Sunday

Starting the Sunday of Daylight Savings End you work on shifting your little person's schedule later in small chunks.

The KEY TO shifting a little person’s schedule:
  • Shift the 1 hour time change in 15 to 20 minute time chunks over 3 to 4 days using naps or bedtime to have the cascade affect of shifting morning wake up time later.

For Babies, less than 12 months, you can work on the time change by shifting their schedule over 3-4 days in 15 minute increments.

Imagine a baby who sleeps at 7:30 pm and wakes at 6:30 am.

On Sunday of DST this will be 6:30 pm and 5:30 am.

Start with the first or second 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.  

Consequently your bedtime would shift as well. From 6:15, 6:30, 6:45, and finally 7 pm.

That should gradually shift her wake up time by about 15 minutes.  Here's an example of a 6 month old on 3 naps.

You could do the "stretch" at any nap of the day or before bedtime. I like to use naps instead of bedtime generally.

If your baby handles the stretching well and it doesn't lead to shorter naps then you could stretch over 2 naps a day and make the shift over 2 days instead of 4.

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.

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 20 - 30 minute adjustments.

Here's an example of a 16 month old on one nap with a 6 hour awake window before nap and a 4 hour awake window after nap.

Before DST:

6:30 am - Wake up

6 hour Awake Window

12:30 pm - Nap

3:30 pm - Wake up

4 hour Awake Window

7:30 pm - Asleep

Sunday

5:30 am - Wake up

6.5 hour Awake Window

11:30 am - Nap

2:30 pm - Wake up

4 hour Awake window

6:30 pm - Asleep

Monday

6:00 am - Wake up - shifted 30 min with later bedtime day before

6.5 hour Awake Window

12:30 pm - Nap

3:30 pm - Wake Up

4 Hour Awake Window

7:30 pm - Asleep

Tuesday

6:30 am - Wake up - shifted 30 min with later bedtime day before

6 hour - Awake Window

12:30 pm - Nap

3:30 pm - Wake up

4 hour Awake Window

7:30 pm - Asleep

With a 30 minute "stretch" you have successfully shifted the wake up time by 1 hour over 2 days.

Summary

Don't try and shift the hour in one night. Use small chunks of time depending on your baby's age to shift the schedule over a few days to prevent your baby from becoming overtired and perpetuating the early morning Wake up.

Read Next:

More Posts

You Might Also Like

Read More

SNOO for Babies: Is it worth it? Pros and Cons

If you are looking for the SNOO review from a baby sleep expert then find out if it is important and 3 Reasons You Don’t Need A SNOO.
Oct 5, 2020
Dr. Sarah Mitchell
Read More

Baby Won’t Sleep in the Bassinet? Why and What to Do (Complete Guide)

Newborn won't sleep in bassinet? Sleep consultant Dr. Sarah Mitchell offers advice on what you can do to help your baby stay asleep in a bassinet.
Sep 28, 2020
Dr. Sarah Mitchell
Read More

6 Month Sleep Regression: Causes, Signs and How to Deal with It

Struggling with the 6 month sleep regression? We have expert advice from sleep consultant Dr Sarah Mitchell with her tips to deal with it.
Sep 21, 2020
Dr. Sarah Mitchell