Baby Sleep, Daylight Savings and Time Changes

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Here in the U.S. (in most states), we are going to be “falling back” (changing our clocks one hour back) this year on Sunday, November 2, 2008. In Europe, they will be changing their clocks the last Sunday in October, or October 27th. The reason we have Daylight Savings is that it allows us to use less energy in lighting our homes by having longer and later daylight hours. Whether you are changing the clocks or traveling with baby through time zones, most parents want to know what to do with their baby’s sleep when the clock says one time and baby says another.

For some, they are anxious for the time change to happen because their baby is going to bed too late, but other parents are freaking out because their baby or toddler is already waking too early and now the clock will say it’s even earlier!

What strategies can you use to handle the time change?

The first option is to do nothing. Your baby is waking at 7 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m. The day the clock changes, it will say 6 a.m., but it really is no different than the day before. You will stick to the same schedule and put him to bed when the clock says 7 p.m. that night, which, to him, will really be 8 p.m. For babies or toddlers who are not sensitive to being overtired or go with the flow, this is a fine strategy and within a day or two, he will be all set and re-settle into the same schedule. If your baby is an early bird (lark) who wakes up at 5 a.m., for example, he will fall back to the normal routine of waking at 5 a.m. after a few days to a week and if you are happy with that, I would simply suggest going with this option and planning to wake up at 4 a.m. for a few days.

The second option is to slowly change your baby or toddler’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time changes. On Wednesday, before your time changes, put your baby or toddler to bed 15 minutes later than normal in hopes that he wakes up 15 minutes later in the morning (I can’t promise that will happen because of our internal clocks, but it does work for many). Also, offer him naps 15 minutes later. Keep putting him to bed 15 minutes later each night until the night of the time change. By the time the clock changes, you would have shifted his schedule by 1 hour, the clock will change, and you will be back to your normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option can have a rippling bad effect on babies or toddlers who are sensitive to becoming overtired, possibly leading to crankiness, early morning wake-up, night-wakings and short naps.

The third option is to stick to the regular schedule leading up to the time change and once the time changes, be flexible and alter the schedule only as much as she can handle. The first night, you may only get to a 6:30 p.m. bedtime, for example, and she will go to bed earlier than normal (clock-wise). It’s the light that stimulates our eyes and sets our internal clock as to when we should sleep or not, so after a few days, she should re-settle into her normal schedule. Unfortunately, this option is really hard on those with babies or toddlers who are already waking up at 5 a.m. You may want to consider shifting your baby or toddler’s schedule in the 3 weeks leading up to the time change and, again, a week after the time change (if you do not like the 5 a.m. wake-up).

There are a variety of things you can do that fall somewhere in between any of these options, but these are the main options you have. If you’d like help with a custom solution for your unique baby, please contact me by purchasing my baby sleep consulting services. I’d love to help you!

How have you handled time changes in the past that has worked?

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