Parenting Tips
Jun 20
· Written By
Anne Del Valle

How to Ease Your Child into Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings is coming up on Nov 7th, and though it is just a one hour shift, it can affect your child’s circadian rhythm for a few days. With some preparation, we can avoid sleep issues that may lead to tired babies (and parents).

Daylight Savings is coming up on Nov 7th, and though it is just a one hour shift, it can affect your child’s circadian rhythm for a few days. With some preparation, we can avoid sleep issues that may lead to tired babies (and parents)! Oath’s Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, Anne Del Valle, is here to provide you with two options for how to help ease your child into the time change.

Circadian Rhythms: Why is shifting sleep so tough in the first place?!

To understand why daylight savings can be so disruptive, it can be helpful to understand the physiology of our internal clocks. At the very center of our brains, the hypothalamus, there is a physical nucleus of our sleep/wake cycle. That nucleus takes in signals about the daytime, like lights, sounds, and adrenaline, to keep us awake during the day, and signals about the nighttime, such as quiet and darkness, to produce the body’s natural sleep hormones, like melatonin.

However, imagine how confusing it would be if the hypothalamus didn’t have an internal clock to assist with these shifts? We would fall asleep in darkness, and be bolt upright through every loud noise at night. To assist with these shifts, the sleep nucleus of the hypothalamus physically builds up proteins and cells during the day, then breaks them down at night (this is an oversimplification, but just imagine that it physically changes shape through a predictable 24-hour cycle).

Now, imagine you shifted all the signals for light and sound in a single day, against the physical internal clock of the hypothalamus. No wonder the body gets confused!

This is why good sleep hygiene matters: having the same bed time and same wake time every day makes it easier for your hypothalamus to keep its rhythm. When you sleep at the same time every night, your body will start to produce melatonin in anticipation of bed time, allowing you to fall asleep much more easily. Keeping rooms dark, quiet, and relatively cool will help to support your body’s ability to maintain deep restful sleep.

Option 1: For children who are a little more reliant on routine and sleep, make incremental changes beforehand

Oath recommends a gradual shift in the bedtime and wake-up schedule in the days leading up to the first day of the time change. To change our biological clocks by one hour, we should move wake time, sleep time and mealtimes slowly over a few days in anticipation of the time change. After the time change, a 7 p.m. bedtime will actually be 8 p.m. 

So, on day one, put the baby to bed a little later than usual. For example, if bedtime is usually 7 p.m., try for 7:15, and let your child sleep 15 minutes longer, if you can.

Then on day two, put your child to bed at 7:30, and let him sleep 30 minutes longer, etc., until you get to the time change.” The rest of your baby’s schedule will need to shift slightly later as well, including feedings and naptimes. 

I recommend starting this transition process November 3rd, at least three to four days before the time change. That’s usually enough time for babies, and parents, to readjust before the actual time change arrives (technically, we set the clocks back at 2 a.m. on Sunday, after you go to bed on Saturday).

Option 2: Split the difference after the time change

We also suggest parents just leave their clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After a cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me!

If for example your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30 am, you will adjust this to 9:00 am for the 3 days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to their schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap. Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7 PM, I recommend putting that child to bed at 6:30 PM for the first 3 days following the time change. (This will feel like 7:30 to your child.)

It will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everybody’s body roughly one week to adjust any kind of change in sleeping habits.

Note: If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minute numerals, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. I would just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30, it reads 7:00 and I would let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, they would be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.

Sweetest Snoozes! 😴

Anne Del Valle
Anne Del Valle

I’m a mother, parent supporter, and a sleep coach providing a hands on, gentle, and holistic approach to sleep training.