Let’s Get Ready to Fall Back! 8 Steps to that Extra Hour of Sleep

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  • October 10, 2019
fall back

fall back

The end of Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner. An hour seems like such a small amount of time, unless it’s the hour between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.! If you have small children, they won’t automatically fall back when the clock changes. The good news is, with a little planning, you can ease into your new schedule ahead of time so that your children will fall back successfully.

Daylight Saving ends in the UK and Europe on Sunday, October 27, and in the US on Sunday, November 3rd. For a full listing of locations and dates, click here.

Understanding “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

The four-day transition to fall back starts on the Wednesday before DST ends. If your child’s normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., then on Wednesday evening , move his bedtime to 7:15 p.m., then 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and so on throughout the week. By Saturday you’ll be at 8:00 p.m., but that will be 7:00 after the change. Here’s what that looks like daily:

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

For a more gradual change, you can do the fall back transition in six days, starting the Monday before DST ends. 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. Keep moving ten minutes at a time the rest of the week, as follows:

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, and calculating times and doing math are nobody’s 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.

Step 3: Shift Naps and Meals

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

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 than a tired, cranky one while adjusting to a new schedule.

Try Adding A Nap:  Your baby may need an additional bonus nap to make it until the new later bedtime on Sunday. 

fall back

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 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!

Step 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. 

Final Fall Back Tips

  • Be as consistent as possible with your child’s normal routine while understanding that this is the reason you have a flexible routine. 
  • Be 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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