Updated: Sep 21, 2019
With cooler temperatures, leaves changing color, and talk of Halloween, we start thinking about Daylight Saving Time coming to an end. Many look forward to turning the clocks back an hour as they get to enjoy that beloved extra hour of sleep. For those who have young children though, this is not the reality. While adults are able to adjust more easily to time change by going back to sleep when they wake "early", babies and young children's internal clocks don't switch that quickly. If your child usually wakes up at 6 am, the morning you turn the clocks back she will wake at 5 am and nobody likes a wake up of 5 am. Here are some things you can do to help the transition, and hopefully avoid that awful early wake up.
Ensure that your child is getting good sleep now
The more rested your child is as you head into the time change, the easier she will be able to adjust to it. Consider the following when looking at her current sleep habits.
Consistent bedtime routine
Babies and children thrive with schedules and routines. Establish a bedtime routine, if you haven't already, and keep it consistent each night.
Create a sleep environment that is conducive to good sleep
The best environment for sleep is one that is cool and dark.
Get out in the daylight & be active
No electronics 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime
Decide which approach you should take
Does your child easily adjust to changes in sleep? If she misses a nap or has an occasional later bedtime, how does it affect her? If she gets overtired at the slightest change in sleep and is emotional or cranky, you will want to take action prior to the time change. If she seems to take changes to her sleep schedule in stride and adjusts quickly, then you may not need to take any action.
When you have a child that adapts easily to changes in her sleep schedule you can simply "do nothing" before you turn the clocks back an hour. Remember that she will likely wake what appears to be an hour earlier that morning (although it will feel like a normal time to her). If she is too tired to make it to her regular nap time, go ahead and put her down for nap a little earlier than normal (30 minutes), but only do this for a few days at the most to help her adjust. Continuing to do this for longer will result in a new schedule.
**Newborn - 4 month olds fall into this category. Their circadian rhythms haven't developed yet and the time change won't have an affect on their sleep.
If your child gets overtired easily or has meltdowns or more tantrums following a missed nap or later bedtime, you will want to take action prior to turning the clocks back an hour. It's best to do this slowly so you will want to start about 2 weeks prior to the end of DST.
Adjust her naps and bedtime 15 minutes later every 3-4 days so that the days right before the time change she is going to bed one hour later than normal.
Since you are shifting naps and bedtime later, you will also want to shift the morning time by not getting your child up until 15 minutes later as well. If your child is crying and unhappy about this, you can choose whether this is a viable option for you. If your child is older and uses a tot clock, you can set the clock 15 minutes later to help with moving wake up time.
Give your child time to adjust
Even if you think your child adapts easily, it may still take a few days for her to fully adjust to the time change. Consider the following as you move through the initial days after the end of DST. All kids should be fully adjusted within 1-2 weeks.
Be sympathetic if she is more emotional or grumpy
Get out in the daylight
Being out in the daylight is what sets your internal clock. This is especially important in helping to reset that clock in the days following the time change.
Start naps slightly earlier if she needs it
If she is especially tired the day after, you may start her nap(s) up to 30 minutes earlier. Only do this for a few days though and then get back to her usual schedule.
Maintain consistent bedtime routines
Make note of how she adapted to the change to know how to prepare for DST in the spring