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How to survive FALLING back with the time change

Who doesn’t love getting an extra hour of sleep? I know I do! However, with kids an extra hour NEVER seems to happen! And when it comes to the extra hour we get with the time change in the fall – babies, toddlers and preschoolers really couldn’t care less. Ironically, the extra hour we gain in the fall is in many ways actually HARDER than losing one in the spring because lighter periods of sleep in the early AM hours, along with sleep pressure diminishing overnight, work against us in gaining and benefiting from that extra hour.

As early as September I started receiving emails and questions on social media from parents worried about the upcoming time change. The good news is, if you have a little one who is a good sleeper (going to sleep independently and on a good schedule) the time change should have minimal impact on your little one’s sleep. If you find yourself struggling to get your little one to fall asleep independently, or if you are having trouble getting them on a solid schedule, don’t stress! There is still hope! Send me a email and let’s get your family moving in the right direction.

There are several ways to handle the time change, and it all depends on what kind of you sleeper you have on your hands.

Option One – Slow and Steady

On the Tuesday or Wednesday before the time change, slowly start to shift your child’s schedule later by 10 to 15 minutes. Ten minutes if you start on Tuesday, or 15 minutes if you start on Wednesday. If your child is sensitive to big adjustments to their waketimes, or if they tend to wake early, this is the best option for them. Shift the schedule later each day so that by the time Sunday rolls around their schedule has been shifted by one hour. This way, when time falls back, they are once again on their normal, pre-time change schedule.

Here is an example of how it would work:

  • Monday – Child typically wakes at 6:00 am

  • Tuesday – Wake child up at 6:10 am (or after if child sleeps later than 6:10 am)

  • Wednesday – Wake child up at 6:20 am (or after if child sleeps later than 6:20 am)

  • Thursday – Wake child up at 6:30 am (or after if child sleeps later than 6:30 am)

  • Friday – Wake to get child up at 6:40 am (or after if child sleeps later than 6:40 am)

  • Saturday – Wake child up at 6:50 am (or after if child sleeps later than 6:50 am)

  • Sunday – MORNING AFTER THE TIME CHANGE – Wake at 6:00 am or after (old 7:00 am)

Things to keep in mind:

  • Shifting the schedule may cause your child to become overtired, but be consistent and stick with it.

  • Everything else should remain normal – wake times, routine, etc.

  • Bedtime, which is never a set time, may naturally shift later each day.

Option Two – One Big Shift

If your little one is not sensitive to a change of wake-times and tends to wake well past 6:00 am each day, this option may be the best one for your family. The week leading up to the time change, keep everything the exactly the same. Sunday morning your child will likely wake an hour earlier. If your little one was waking at 7:00 am, they may wake at 6:00 am following the time change, and that’s okay.

During the day try to push their schedule (as much as they can handle) by an hour or so to get them back to their normal time. If you start to notice signs of them becoming overtired, you can stop. The impact from the time change should not last long. If by bedtime they are exhausted, it’s okay to put them to bed earlier. If based on their naps and wake-times they should be going to bed at 7:15 pm but can only make it to 6:45 pm, that is okay; go ahead and put them to bed!

Option Three – Do Nothing!

Even though the clock is changing, you are not! This is the option I plan to use with my son. He tends to go to bed past 7:00 pm (even later on days he naps) and his typical wake-up time is between 7:15 am to 7:45 am. He is not prone to be overtired. While he may wake an hour earlier following the change, I will stick to the exact same schedule we normally follow!

A few other tips –

  • Remember those cues you have built into your routine? This is where they become so important. Keep those nap and bedtime routines the EXACT same during the time change. Despite the time, these will remind your child what is coming next – SLEEP! Need help building a solid routine? I have a guide just for you!

  • Use Mother Nature’s help! During periods of wake time, use light as a trigger so your child knows it's an awake time. Get out of the house, go for a walk, open the curtains! But remember, when it is time for nap or bedtime, make sure to do the reverse and dim the lights.

  • If after the time change you still feel like your little one’s schedule is still off, don’t worry! I am here to help! I have email packages available to get your little one’s sleep back on track!

The time change may seem like a big scary thing, but don’t worry! With these options, you have a solid plan to survive and thrive the fall back in time!

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