Whether you’re getting ready to fall back or spring forward, here’s how to handle daylight savings time and your baby’s sleep.
I remember how excited I used to get for the “fall back” time change. Who doesn’t love an extra hour of sleep?
That is until I became a parent.
It wasn’t until I had a baby that I realized how tricky it can be to navigate a time change with a little one.
While it feels like the rest of the world is cuddled up in bed for an extra hour on November 7th, you’ll probably be awake an hour earlier than you’d like to be with your bright-eyed babe.
Your baby doesn’t care what your alarm clock says—the only clock they listen to is their internal clock!
Let’s talk about Daylight Saving Time and how to get your baby’s sleep schedule back on track after a time change.
The Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Your Baby’s Sleep
I really used to appreciate time changes before I was a parent. I loved gaining an extra hour in the fall!
The time change in the spring was also exciting because it signaled warmer weather and longer days.
I used to wonder why people would get so grumpy about a schedule shake-up to signal the changing seasons!
But then I had my daughter, and I joined the grumpy ranks.
Time changes are an extra wrinkle when you’re trying to iron out a sleep schedule that works for your baby.
Likewise, your baby’s sleep schedule is disrupted again when Daylight Saving starts in the spring. The lost hour can mean less overnight sleep for your baby, and an overtired baby will often fight sleep.
How Long Does it Take for Babies to Adjust to Daylight Savings?
Thankfully, just like most other sleep-schedule shake-ups, the Daylight Savings sleep disruption won’t last forever.
Most babies and toddlers will be able to adjust to the new time change within a week or so. Some little ones are even able to make the transition over just a few days.
When you’re in the thick of a sleep schedule change, it helps to remember that it’s only temporary. You’ll be through it before you know it.
Still, you may be wondering: how do I get my baby back on a sleep schedule after a time change?
There are a few things you can do to make the transition quicker and easier for your family.
How Do I Get My Baby Back on a Sleep Schedule?
One good thing about a time change is that we know exactly when it’s going to happen. That means we can prepare for it! And since there is never just one way to do things, you have a few options for how to help your baby’s sleep with daylight savings.
One thing I always recommend is to wait and adjust your clocks in your house until after you’ve woken up and had your cup of coffee, There’s something mentally depressing about seeing 6 am on the clock, even if your body got the same amount of rest.
Now, here are some tips to prepare your little one for a successful time transition.
Adjust Gradually in Advance
This is a great option if you’re more of a planner and want to do the most you can to keep your baby on their regular sleep schedule.
- A few days before the time change, start adjusting your baby’s schedule by 15-minute increments. In the fall, that means pushing everything back by 15 minutes. For example: if bedtime is usually at 7:00 pm, change it to 7:15 pm. The next day, push it to 7:30 pm, then 7:45 pm the following day. By the day of the time change, your baby will be ready to go to sleep at what feels like 8:00 pm for them (but it’ll now be 7:00 pm on the clock!).
- Keep wake windows and nap lengths the same. You might be tempted to cut a nap short during a time change to help your baby go to sleep at the “right” bedtime, but you risk making them overtired later. I also don’t recommend adding extra nap time to make up for lost sleep in during the spring time change. The more consistent you can keep your baby’s nap lengths and wake windows, the better.
- Don’t make any major changes to the bed time routine. The routine signals to your little one that it’s time to wind down. They’ll need those signals now more than ever since their bodies might be a little confused by the time change.
- Make sure your baby’s room is a conducive place for sleep. Check out the must have baby nursery items for sleep and make sure you have good blackout curtains in the nursery to block out the morning sun.
- Give yourself some grace and be patient. Your baby isn’t the only one adjusting to the time change—so are you!
Those early mornings after the fall time change can be hard on you, too, so make sure you’re getting to bed a little earlier and getting the rest you need. Things will be all sorted out soon enough!
Adjust the Weekend Of
if your baby is on a two-nap schedule, on the day of Daylight Savings (Sunday) put them down for their first nap 30 minutes earlier than you normally would. To them, it will feel 30 minutes later so they’ll be ready for it!
Continue this process for their other nap and bedtime. Within about 3 to 4 days, they should be adjusted to the new times.
If your baby is still on 3 naps or more, adding that much wake time will likely lead them to be overtired, so move to one of the other options for babies under 6 months old.
I have to admit that time changes always make my brain melt. I’m not good at the idea of time changes, whether it’s due to travel or the clock changing, so I have never adjusted my baby or toddler’s schedule for Daylight Savings.
I usually just follow what the clocks say and give everyone a few days of grace until we all get readjusted to the new time.
Daylight Savings and Your Toddler’s Sleep
Toddlers are inquisitive and observant! They are also a little more resilient when it comes to sleep.
Still, you might need a couple extra tricks up your sleeve to help them through the time change.
Try talking to your toddler about the time change. Change is often easier for them if they know what to expect.
Let your toddler know that the sun is going to be coming up earlier than it used to, and their body might wake up before it’s time to get out of bed. Encourage them to watch the clock for the right color before they leave their room.
When Daylight Savings Time is ending (in the fall), turn their toddler clock to their wakeup color 45 minutes early. This will make it so they’re in bed 15 minutes later than normal since we gained an hour. The next day, add another 15 minutes and continue to increase by 15 minutes each day until the clock is back to the new normal time.
During the spring time change, the okay-to-wake-clock will help signal that it’s time for bed even though the sun might still be up.
Making their room dark can also be super helpful during the spring time change, since your toddler might not be happy about getting in bed when there’s still light in the sky. See different ideas on how to make the room dark so you’re prepared!
Blocking out the sun rays will help things feel cozy in their bedroom and make it easier to fall asleep.
Other Time Changes that Impact Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule
Daylight Savings time changes aren’t the only situations that can confuse your baby’s internal clock. Traveling with baby can also really complicate a baby’s circadian rhythm!
If you’re wondering how to adjust your baby to a time change when you travel, the answer depends on how long you’ll be in the new time zone.
It usually takes 3-5 days for a baby to overcome jet lag and adjust to a new time zone.
If you’re not going to be traveling for very long, you can try keeping your baby on your home time zone’s schedule. It will save you the time and disruption of having to transition their schedule twice (both at your destination, and when you return home).
But if you travel far and the time change is drastic, staying on your home time zone may not be an option. Get more tips for how to help your baby sleep while traveling.
How to Help Baby With Jet Lag
Without being able to rely on the clock, it’s extra important to pay attention to your baby’s sleepy cues. If you notice a lot of yawning, eye rubbing, or extra fussing, your little one is letting you know they’re ready to sleep.
Try to keep the length of your baby’s sleep consistent. If they typically sleep 12 hours at night and take two 2-hour naps every day, keep that the same in your new time zone.
There’s a good chance that your jet lagged baby will get sleepy before their typical wake-window is over. Try taking them outside for a change of scenery to stretch their awake time.
When you’re in a new time zone, sunlight can also be a really helpful way to get your baby into the right rhythm. The more time your baby spends outside, the easier it will be for their body to adjust to the new day and night hours.
Don’t let the fear of jet lag or disrupted schedules keep you from traveling with your little one. Just like with Daylight Savings, I promise the hard days won’t last forever and your little one will adjust to the changes!
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