The end of daylight savings time is coming up this next weekend. 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.
If I had my way, there would be no more daylight savings. 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, too. In fact, there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after daylight savings time kicks in each spring, when we all lose an hour of sleep.
The time change really does have an effect on us, and it 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 a struggle during this time change the most in young children. For this reason, it is not surprising that I have already received many questions from my current and past clients about how to handle this one hour time change with our kiddos. So, what is the best way to handle it?
How to adjust kids’ routine for daylight savings: Split the difference
For “fall back,” 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. Just 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 for the time change: 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: 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 from the new sunrise time
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 bright 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.
And remember, I am here to help! Reach out to me if you are ready for more education and support in finding sleep solutions for your family.