How Does Daylight Saving Affect Your Baby’s Sleep Pattern and Tips to Adjust Losing or Gaining an Hour
Whether you’re “SPRINGing forward” or “FALLing back”, the one hour time change can be a confusing adjustment for your baby’s biological clock, and can wreak havoc on your pre-existing sleep routine. The time change can affect your baby’s circadian rhythm, and therefore her sleep schedule can be thrown off. So how do we avoid this “National All-Parents-Lose-An-Hour-Of-Sleep” day? If you’re lucky, and your child isn’t super sleep sensitive, you can just jump to the new time and wait for her to adjust, but if your child is sensitive to sleep like most babies, here’s how to adjust to Daylight Saving . . .
If you aren’t able to change your baby’s sleep schedule, and your child’s temperament is one that adjusts to changes after a couple of days, you can simply change the clocks and the new time is the new time! The schedule stays the same by the clock. Wow, easy right?! This option has it’s pros and cons. You don’t really have to worry about doing much prior to the time change, but this approach can result in a few rocky days. It can quickly develop into a pattern of early wakings, short naps and crabby bedtimes. However, many babies adjust after 3-5 days just fine.
PREPARE FOR IT
To avoid the possible over-tiredness and early wakings, it is recommended that you gradually shift the bedtime and wake-up schedule in the days leading up to the time changes in both March and November. Think of it this way: if you’re in March, time will spring forward an hour, so if your little one originally went down to sleep at 7pm, then you’ll have to think about preparing her to go down for bed at 8pm. Likewise, if you’re in November and time is falling back, her 7pm bedtime would become 6pm. Obviously your baby won’t understand this change, and if you just make the switch overnight, she will be confused. The process of slowly or gradually shifting her routine in the days leading up will trick her body into not even realizing a difference.
The key to adjusting your baby to the spring time change is by moving their entire schedule backwards in 10-15 minute intervals leading up to the change. This is because an original 8pm bedtime is going to become a 9pm bedtime, so by shifting baby’s schedule towards a 7pm bedtime, it won’t feel so drastic once the clocks spring forward.
We all know the fall time change in November means a rejuvenating extra hour of sleep on the weekend. But when you’re a parent, setting the clocks back doesn’t necessarily mean an extra hour of shut-eye. It can still cause early-morning crying fits and bedtime battles. In order to avoid this stress and get more sleep for you and baby, shift your schedule forward gradually in 10-15 minute intervals. An original 8pm bedtime will become a 7pm bedtime once the clocks fall back, so you’ll want to move your baby’s schedule towards a 9pm bedtime leading up to the time change.
KEEP IT DARK
As you may already know, with the time change comes a change in how soon or late the sun rises and sets. In the winter, 6pm can look like 9pm does in summer. Very confusing! But your baby doesn’t need to know this. All babies know that they sleep well in the dark and the dark means it’s time for sleep, so if you don’t use them already, blackout curtains or shades will come in very handy during this transition.
When secretly switching your baby’s schedule, you’ll need to be discreet and keep in mind that her body’s natural circadian rhythms and current sleep patterns are already established, so when you’re attempting to get her to sleep gradually earlier or later, keep noise to a low, rumbling, brown noise. Many other sounds or high frequencies can work against you and bring her into an alert state when you’re trying to get her to sleep.
Your baby or toddler’s bedtime can be based on routine more than it is on the clock. For young children, it's absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime. Certain routines like bath time, story time, quiet time, and putting on pajamas or a Woolino sleep bag are all acts your little ones associate with going to bed. Don’t feel controlled by the hours on the clock and instead use routines to alter your baby’s bedtime schedule. Adjusting when you begin these pre-bedtime rituals will help your child fall asleep when you need them to.
WAIT TO WAKE
Anytime there is a shift in sleeping patterns, cycles can feel a bit off, and your child may start waking earlier if you shifted to a later bedtime. If your child wakes early, try allowing them time in their crib/room to hang out (assuming they don't become upset) and encourage that independent time before getting them up. You also want to make sure their room is completely dark in the morning and that sunlight isn't causing early morning risings.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep deprivation can complicate things when it comes to getting baby to sleep on time. While you can’t accrue extra sleep, you can make sure you and baby aren’t sleeping poorly or skipping naps leading up to the time change. The more rested your baby is leading up to this transition, the better!
FORGOT TO PREPARE?
Maybe the time change snuck up on you (like it does for so many) and you didn’t even realize it happened until after your clocks read incorrectly. You didn’t get the chance to prepare and shift your baby’s schedule, so now what? Well, there are actions you can take to help ease the transition after the time change. Make sure your little ones get plenty of exercise during the day so they get tired. Establish and maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Keep their room dark to block out early morning sun, and use a baby sound machine to disguise any bird chirping that could wake them. Reward them in the morning for sleeping all night long in their room. And remember that you can change any routine in about a week if you are consistent.
While it may seem complicated, it’s really just putting the baby down a little earlier or later. Some moms have found they can push the schedule within a day or two and it works out smoothly. You know your baby best, so determine what works best for you, and don’t forget to hang in there and take a deep breath. Within a week your baby will be back on track.