Let’s Get Ready To Fall Back!

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  • October 07, 2015
Can you believe it's almost time to shift the clocks back? Use this step-by-step guide to help your kids sleep great through the change!

Can you believe it's almost time to shift the clocks back? Use this step-by-step guide to help your kids sleep great through the change!Each fall many of us turn our clocks back an hour and for a brief moment we feel like we can steal an hour back from Father Time! I certainly relish that “extra hour” of sleep on a sleepy, autumn, Sunday morning.

Of course, when you have children, the end of Daylight Saving Time each fall means that bedtime adjustments are in order…and that extra hour can come with challenges rather than additional sleep. 

Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States and Canada on November 1st.

Most of Europe changes the clock on October 25th this year.

The clock will move backward one hour on Sunday a.m. at 2:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. See this link for details for almost all countries.

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The end of Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner and, if you have young children, I recommend that you plan ahead for the transition. I have some ideas that may help you negotiate this tricky time change.

fall backUnderstanding “Normal Wake Time”

Waking sometime between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m. is completely healthy and normal for most children. But if your child has been waking at 6:30 a.m. for the past few months, 6:30 a.m. will become 5:30 a.m. and suddenly you’ve got an early riser on your hands. Ouch. What used to be the magical morning of extra sleep (for adults) has been hijacked by those circadian rhythms!

Do you want to avoid this jolting scenario? I can help you do just that.

Your goal for the week before the end of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday is to gradually shift your child’s internal clock to the new, upcoming time.

Step 1: Slowly Shift Bedtime BEFORE You Fall Back

You can proactively prepare your child for the time change by starting 4 to 6 days before DST ends on Sunday.

Start by slowly shifting bedtime a bit later the week leading up to the time change. Use 10 or 15 minute increments of time to help you achieve your child’s “normal” bedtime after the change.

Step 2: Choose How To Transition

Decide if you will take 4 or 6 days to transition your child.

  • Four days = shift bedtime forward by 15 minutes each night.
  • Six days = shift bedtime forward by 10 minutes each night. 

The Four Day Transition

If your child’s normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., then on Wednesday evening before the time change, move his bedtime to 7:15 p.m., then 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and so on throughout the week. Look at the chart for the specifics.

On Sunday evening you will be back at your child’s bedtime of 7:00 p.m.according to the new Standard Time. 

For example: 

Day of the Week

Bedtime

Wednesday

7:15 p.m. DST

Thursday

7:30 p.m. DST

Friday

7:45 p.m. DST

Saturday

8:00 p.m. DST

Sunday

7:00 p.m. ST

The Six Day Transition

If your child’s normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., then on Monday evening before the time change move bedtime to 7:10 p.m. and so on throughout the week. Look at the chart for the specifics.

For example: 

Day of the Week

Bedtime

Monday

7:10 p.m. DST

Tuesday

7:20 p.m. DST

Wednesday

7:30 p.m. DST

Thursday

7:40 p.m. DST

Friday

7:50 p.m. DST

Saturday

8:00 p.m. DST

Sunday

7:00 p.m. ST

Regardless of which option you choose, by Sunday evening you will be back at your child’s bedtime of 7:00 p.m. (according to the new clock).

It may seem silly to spell each day’s new bedtime out so clearly, but some of you are tired mamas and calculating times and doing math are not your strong suit when bleary-eyed! Just bookmark this page and refer to the option you have chosen each day this week as a reminder.

Now that you know what your general plan is, let’s consider a few additional steps to even out the rough spots for you.

BabyStep 3: Shift Naps and Meals

Along with bedtime, shift naps and meals by these same 10-15 minute increments to see the biggest success. 

Now, this may take some extra work on your part to follow a different time schedule each day. But all of these changes can add up to a smoother transition for you and your child.

Step 4: Dramatic Wake Ups

You may find that your child wakes up too early despite your best efforts. Or maybe you didn’t find this article until today, so you had to go cold turkey  – meaning that you did not do a 4 or 6 day transition –  and your child is waking far too early. If this is the case, try something I call the Dramatic Wake Up

When your child wakes too early, go in to help your child go back to sleep using methods that you’ve utilized while sleep coaching, for example, the chair positions of The Shuffle. Remember to keep the room dim or dark while you gently soothe and help them back to sleep.

When the clock reflects your child’s correct wake up time use this Dramatic Wake Up

  • Go out of the room for an entire minute (60 seconds. Use a watch if you have to) .
  • Enter dramatically saying a clear “Good Morning!”
  • Open the blinds and turn on the lights.
  • Sing a cheery good morning song and welcome the new day! (This one may be as much for you as your child.)

Dramatic Wake Up will help your baby adjust to the fact that waking up is a little bit “later” than it used to be. It also prevents you from communicating that getting up early is the new, acceptable plan. No need to start a new sleep crutch now!

Step 5: Make Naps a Priority

If at all possible, make your child’s regular napping schedule a priority during this adjustment period. It is better to not plan long days away from the normal routine while they are gradually transitioning to the new time. Your well-napped baby will be more flexible in adjusting to a new schedule than a tired, cranky one!

Add In A Nap:  Also, your baby may need an additional bonus nap to make it until the new later bedtime on Sunday. 

Step 6: Take an Early Morning Walk

In order to help your child reset their internal clock, get some sunshine right after waking up if at all possible. Getting outside in the sunshine for 20 to 30 minutes will allow your baby’s internal clock to make the adjustment it needs. 

If weather does not permit, even sitting or playing in the sunshine streaming through your windows will help, so pull up those blinds!

Happy Baby In Knitted HatStep 7: Be Mindful of Wakefulness Windows

While it’s important to keep an eye on the time, pay attention to your child’s sleepy cues, such as eye-rubbing, yawning, and disinterest. Respect their wakefulness windows so that they do not become overtired.

Step 8: Expect A Week of Transition

Even if you use all of the suggestions above, it may take up to a week for your child to fully adjust to the time change and this is normal. Keep using dramatic wake up and promoting naps, and you’ll find that in a week you’ll all be back on track. 

A few final tips:

  • Be consistent.Try to be as consistent as possible with your child’s normal routine while understanding that this is the reason you have a flexible routine. 
  • Be flexible. You may need to be a bit more flexible than normal during this transition. This means that you need to carve out extra time keep track of new meal and nap times, do The Shuffle at night and in the morning, and give some extra love and attention if your child needs it.
  • Take one day at a time. If you have just started sleep coaching your child this extra task may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Just take it one day at a time.

Though your family may take a few days to completely transition, a gradual change is easier than an abrupt one. I hope this gradual and gentle approach to Standard Time will help you “fall back” gracefully!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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