On Sunday, November 4th, clocks go back one hour when Daylight Savings Time ends, and as a result, we gain a bit of extra sleep. Obviously getting more sleep sounds blissful, but it’s not quite so simple if you have young kids. Parents often worry about how it will affect their family’s sleep and wonder when their child will adjust to the new time schedule. The good news is, that when it comes to both the spring and fall time changes, our body clocks will naturally adjust on their own. However, you may need to give your kids a bit of help, which will also make the shift that much easier.
If you have a child that isn’t super sensitive when it comes to sleep, then you may be able to just switch over to the new times and wait for them to adapt. This is definitely the easiest approach, and one that I often recommend to families. Consistency is key here, and it may take them a week or two to adjust, but they will. If you’re looking for some extra support for toddlers and preschoolers, use a toddler clock. A toddler clock allows you to pick a wake-up time, and then the clock provides visual cues for young children telling them when it’s okay to get up in the mornings.
Tips for A Smoother Time Change Adjustment
If your kids are more sensitive when it comes to changes in routine, the other option to explore involves a gradual shift in their schedule. Remember, when the clocks shift back, their 7pm bedtime will actually be an 8pm bedtime according to their body clock. By shifting everything later prior to the change, you’ll be working to reset their internal rhythm and make it an easier to transition come Sunday night.
For sensitive sleepers, follow these modifications starting a few days before the time change:
- Shift your child’s bedtime and wake time 15 minutes later than usual.
- Continue to shift bedtime by 15 minutes each day until you reach the time when bedtime will be with the time change (1 hour = 4 nights of 15-minute increments).
- If you think it will help, you may want to go as far as shifting their entire routine throughout the day and make naps and mealtimes slightly later as well.
Make no mistake, time changes don’t only affect children. They can also be tough for adults too! With the idea that the fall change gives us an “extra hour” of sleep, many use it as an excuse to stay up later and figure they can just sleep later in the morning. Regardless of age, the best route to take is to stick to your same routine. To help adjust your own body clock go to bed at the same time each night (even though it will be darker earlier) and wake up at the same time in the morning. By sticking to your routine, it shouldn’t take longer than a week for you to adapt.
Keep in mind that while young children may not complain of being tired right after the time change, they may be cranky that first week while their bodies wait to sleep and eat. Not to worry though, with persistence and consistency, the whole family will get through the time change just fine.
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute and is host of the ‘This Girl Loves Sleep’ Podcast. She and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto, Canada with their 3 children (1+twins!) You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Macleans, Prevention Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram.