Do you remember back in the day when we were young and childless? Do you remember how this fall time change was the best? You could stay out later, sleep later, or procrastinate a bit longer and still fit everything you needed into the day. Sure, it is now dark by 4:30 pm- but we got an extra hour to SLEEP!
Parenthood has changed this. A LOT. Now? That extra hour on Sunday is spent awake entertaining your kiddo….and every morning after that seems to come an hour earlier too. The early sunset now means less outside play time, and the early sunrises mean light peaks into their rooms waking them up.
But do not fear- all is not lost! You can navigate this tricky time change and get back to ‘normal’ again.
Steps to Handle the ‘fall back’ time change.
1. Wait to change the clock.
Do NOT go around the house Saturday night changing the clocks back one hour. If your schedule allows, wait until the next day. Wait until your child wakes up on their own on Sunday (and you’ve had your first cup of coffee) to move the clocks back one hour (if possible). Why? It’s totally a psychological thing. It’s very disheartening to possibly see the number 5 (or 4!!) on the clock that first day. This helps you start your Sunday off on the best foot possible.
On Sunday once the clock has been changed 1 hour earlier…
2. Shift naps
For little babies (0-6ish months): If you have a young baby who is still working with wake windows for naps (for example, needs a nap every 2 hours), just extend that wake window by 5-10 minutes. You don’t want to go into over-tiredness. Keep the slow extension of wake windows (over about a week of time) until naps are at an appropriate time.
For older babies (6+ Months) on a set schedule: For older babies on a set nap schedule (at 9:30 & 2 for example), you are going to move nap 30 minutes early. For example, If nap #1 is normally around 9:30 am, move it to 9 am (which will feel like the old 10 am). This will still be a stretch for your kiddo, but hopefully, not too much to push them into overtiredness. Do this for 3-4 days (if possible), then go back to their normal nap time.
3. Bring Bedtime Earlier
For little babies (0-6ish months): Again, for those little babies who work solely on wake windows- don’t push that wake window before bedtime too long. Just 5-10 minutes longer than normally all you want to do. This means bedtime will most likely be a bit early the first few nights. That’s OK! A slightly earlier bedtime is needed to prevent overtiredness. Babies who are overtired tend to wake up EARLIER- which you don’t need at this time change. Each day bedtime will move a bit later until you are back to your normal time.
For older babies on a set schedule: Just like with naps, move bedtime 30 minutes earlier. If your kiddo is normally in bed around 7:30 pm, have them in bed at 7 pm (which will feel like the old 8 pm). Do this for 3-4 days, then move bedtime back to their original bedtime (in this case, 7:30 p.m.).
4. Extend Morning Wake Up
Mornings unfortunately take a bit longer to adjust. First, make sure your kiddo’s room is 100% dark. The sun will be rising earlier now and you don’t want any light peaking in to make your child think it’s time to get up. All it takes is the slightest bit of light streaming in to alert your kiddo to wake up.
Next, slowly adjust the time you get your kiddo out of the crib in the morning. Let’s say your child used to get up at 7 a.m., he or she will now most likely be waking up at 6 a.m. Do not rush to get them out of the crib as soon as they wake for the day. Instead, slowly extend their morning wake-up minimum. For example, get them up at 6:10 one day, the next at 6:20, then 6:30, etc. This will help to slowly extend that early morning back to normal.
Have a bigger kid that uses an ok-to-wake clock? Adjust it to be ‘awake’ at the same 10-minute increments (6:10, then 6:20, 6:30, etc) until it’s back to the normal time.
A Few More Tips
It takes 1-2 weeks for your kiddo to adjust to this new time change. Stay consistent (especially with those mornings) and they will get there!
Get your kiddo OUTSIDE as much as possible! Sunlight and physical activity will help their body clocks adjust quicker and help them power through when they are feeling sleepy.
Have a kiddo in daycare? That’s OK! Even if you have no control over their naps during the day, still follow this same advice for their age for bedtime and mornings. They will adjust just fine still!
But what if sleep was terrible before the time change?
If your kiddo was sleeping terribly (or waking up way too early) before the time change, chances are things will feel even worse after. I urge you to reach out for help so you can get your life back on track. I’d love to chat about how I can get your whole family sleeping better! You don’t have to be stuck waking up at 4:00 a.m. forever!