Adjusting Your Child’s Sleep for Springing Forward
Mark your calendars for March 14th; it’s finally daylight saving time for the U.S.! Signs of spring will be in the air and that means the sun will be out longer as well.
When we “spring forward” on March 14th, your little angel, who has been waking up at 6 am, will now wake at 7 am! So for all you parents out there with early risers, daylight saving time (DST) can save the day!
“Springing forward” luckily isn’t as challenging for babies or toddlers as “falling back” in Autumn because we aren’t trying to teach their internal clock to sleep in longer, but rather, we can wake them up at the desired wakeup time.
Even so, an hour’s difference can still throw some babies and toddlers off! Here’s how you can prepare for this change based on your family’s needs and your child’s age:
Option 1: Don’t Change A Thing!
Yup, you read that right! If your child has always been an early riser, you won’t need to make any adjustments because your little one will now be on a schedule where they are waking up and going to bed an hour later than they were previously. So if you want your child to change their current 6:30 pm-6 am schedule to a 7:30 pm-7 am schedule, you don’t have to change anything! Keep in mind, this means meal times and naps will all be an hour later as well.
Option 2: Gradual Approach
The gradual approach is perfect if you are a planner and/or have a child who is sensitive to change; this typically includes babies younger than six months or a child who just recently went through a nap transition.
With this method, on the Tuesday morning before DST, you would wake your child up approximately 10 minutes earlier than usual (so 6:50 am instead of the regular 7 am) and move naps, meals, and bedtime up by around 10 minutes as well. Then each day that week, you aim to wake your child up an additional 10 minutes earlier and keep moving bedtime earlier. Come Sunday morning, your little one be waking up around their typical pre-DST wakeup time!
Option 3: Weekend Approach
If you can’t change your schedule during the week, you can start Thursday night and follow the weekend approach.
Thursday morning, your child would wake up at their usual time and have meals and naps at their typical times as well. However, Thursday night, you would put your child down to sleep 15 minutes earlier than usual. On Friday morning, wake them approximately 15 minutes earlier than their normal wakeup time and move their nap up 15 minutes earlier as well. Continue to do this, and then Sunday morning, your child will be waking up close to their pre-DST wakeup time!
Option 4: Day Of Approach
And lastly, you can even start the morning of daylight saving time by waking your child 30 minutes before their usual wakeup time and then spending the following week gently getting them back to their original schedule! So if they typically wake up at 7 am, on Sunday morning, wake them up at 7:30 am (it will feel like 6:30 am to them). I like this method best for children on just one or no nap because they are less affected by this minor shift in the schedule.
Helping Your Child Adjust:
Alongside your chosen approach, you can make changes to your child’s sleep environment and their activity level to further help make this a smooth transition for them:
To help with this time change adjustment, keep the shades drawn and lights dimmed within the house an hour before bedtime to help your child’s body calm down earlier than expected. The sun will be rising earlier in the morning so invest in blackout shades (my personal favorites are Blackout EZ Window Covers) and if your child sleeps in a pack n play or mini crib, use your SlumberPod, of course! This dark environment will help your child produce the optimal levels of melatonin needed for falling asleep at bedtime.
Make sure they get plenty of playtime outside in the morning, as this will help set your child’s internal sleep cycle. Try to expose your child to natural sunlight first thing in the morning because it will allow them to produce higher levels of melatonin when it’s time to sleep!
It may take a few days to a week for your child to adjust to this time change. Be patient if they’re taking a bit longer than usual to fall asleep at bedtime! You've got this, and you will all be back to normal before you can say, “April showers bring May flowers”!
Julie Connelly, owner and certified sleep consultant at The Sleepyhead Coach, lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and two daughters. She takes a holistic look at what is at the root of your child's sleep issue and works with you to implement a plan that aligns with your parenting philosophy and your child’s age and temperament. No copy and paste over here!
Julie loves providing sleep tips and advice for parents on her Instagram account @thesleepyheadcoach and make sure you check out her popular free Q&A Wednesdays when she answers as many sleep questions as she can!
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.Still struggling with early morning wake-ups? Check out our helpful blog on that here.