Tips for a Successful “Fall Back” Transition

Daylight Saving Time doesn't have to rob YOU of sleep

By Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH October 25, 2013
Yes, it’s that dreaded time again . . . Daylight Saving Time (DST) is just around the corner. On November 3, 2013, we will move the clocks back by one hour. If your children easily adjust to the time change, you may be lucky and get an extra hour of sleep. Most of you, however, should expect that your children will awaken up to an hour earlier until their bodies have adjusted to the new time.

There are a few ways to help ease the pain of the Daylight Saving shift:
  • For the less sensitive baby or child . . . go with the flow. There is no need to prepare them for the time change. Come Sunday, adjust the entire day to the new time including naps, bedtime, and meals. Within a few days his body will adjust.
  • For those children who have some difficulty with sleep transitions . . . start the transition to the new time several days before DST begins. On Wednesday, October 30, begin to shift the bedtime later by 15 minutes. Each subsequent day, shift the bedtime an additional 15 minutes. Be sure to adjust his entire day (naps, bedtime, and meals). By Sunday, your little one's body will already be on the way to adjusting to the new time.
  • For the first week or two after DST, keep the lights a bit dimmer for the first hour or so after waking in the morning and the lights a bit brighter for the last hour of the day. This will help the resetting of your child’s internal clock to the new time.
  • With any change to schedule or routine, the more rested your little one can be leading up to the change, the more successful the transition will be. Spend time now getting naps and night sleep in order so your little one is not overtired. A well-rested sleeper will handle this transition much more smoothly than an overtired child!
Tips for making Sunday (and the following days) as smooth as possible:
  • Spend lots of time outdoors. Physical activity will help ensure that your little one is tuckered out in time for naps and bedtime. Being in the natural light will also help them reset their internal clocks.
  • If your little one wakes early in the morning on Sunday, do your best to get him to go back to sleep until the regular wake time (according the new time). If he does wake early, on Sunday only, go ahead and get him out of bed a bit earlier than his regular wake time.
  • Keep him awake until the correct time for his naps. Spending time outdoors will help make this more successful.
  • In the evening, do your best to keep your child awake until his normal bedtime.
Have realistic expectations. It could take anywhere from a few days to a week or two for your little one’s internal clock to reset to this new time. As with all sleep training, the most important thing is for Mom and Dad to approach this transition with patience, confidence, and consistency.

Renee Wasserman, PT, MPH, founder of SleepyHead Solutions, is a Family Sleep Institute-certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. She offers many services including phone, email, Skype/FaceTime, and in-person consultations to solve your child’s sleep challenges. Feel free to email her with any questions. You can find out more information at her website and on her Facebook page.