“Fall Back” – The End of Daylight Savings Time
End DST Overview:
- This blog is for babies/children who are 5 months – 4 years. (Babies under 5 months are far less affected by this shift.)
- On Sunday morning, November 6 the sun will rise 1 hour earlier (by the clock) than it did the day before. There will be MORE LIGHT in the morning. (Click on the link for more information about why this is significant).
- On Sunday evening, November 6 the sun will set about 1 hour earlier (by the clock) than it did the day before. There will be LESS LIGHT in the evening.
- On Sunday morning, November 6 if you have taken no steps to adjust for DST, your child waking at 6am will wake at 5am by the clock. Your child’s body clock has stayed the same – he’s not actually waking up any earlier than normal – but the CLOCK TIME now says something different.
- On Sunday evening, November 6 if you have taken no steps to adjust for DST, your child who typically goes to bed at 7pm will want to go to bed at 6pm. Your child’s body clock is still driving for sleep at the usual time, it’s only the clocks – or social time -that has changed.
- If you would like to keep your child on the same schedule by the clock after DST, you will need to shift your child’s circadian rhythm 1 hour LATER in the days leading up to the time change.
The following are steps to shift your child’s body clock gradually 1 hour later during this week before the time change, which is preferred: (Steps for a more rapid shift are also listed below)
It will be LIGHT in the evening and DARKNESS in the morning that will shift your child’s body clock. A later bedtime without bright light in the evening and darkness in the morning WILL NOT shift your child’s morning sleep any later.
1. MORNINGS: Approx 5-7 days ahead of DST, begin to extend your child’s darkness exposure in the morning AND delay morning feedings if applicable. Your baby is “allowed”/expected to get up at the usual time, but keep lights/screens off for an additional hour, or as much of an hour as you can. Start to delay morning feedings slowly (10 mins a day is fine), and keep activity level low during the hour waiting period. This can be extremely challenging if you have a busy work schedule or multiple children so if you cannot manage a full hour, do as much of an hour as you can.
Real Life Example: On Wednesday, baby Caleb (8 months old) wakes as usual at 6am, hungry and ready to be fed. Dad stumbles in to baby, keeping lights off (blackout shades essential!!!!!!) and sits next to the crib to pat/shhhh Caleb. After a few minutes Caleb cries so dad picks him up and rocks him, sitting in the chair in the room or pacing/bouncing on a physio ball. After 10 minutes, dad feeds Caleb (or perhaps mom comes in to nurse or feed), but they continue to keep the lights off. Dad changes Caleb (in the dark or by very dim nightlight!), and lets him roll on the floor while supervised. At 6:40 dad has to get ready for work so turns on the lights and starts the day with play, smiles, and leaving the room with Caleb to go find mom.
On Thursday, Caleb wakes at 6am again as usual, hungry and fussing for mom or dad. Dad stumbles in again, keeping the lights off. This time dad tries to delay the morning feeding by 20 minutes, soothing and rocking Caleb, who is a little more fussy today, in the dark to help pass this time. At 6:20 dad feeds Caleb and continues to keep lights off until 6:30 am when he has to get ready for work. Mom comes in to sit with Caleb in the dark for an additional 15 minutes until she too has to get ready for the day. Repeat on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, shifting the feeding an hour + later and extending darkness for as much of the hour as you can.
2. EVENINGS: Approx 3-4 days ahead of DST, put your child to bed 10-15 mins later each night. Having already begun morning darkness extension, in the final few days leading up to DST, begin to keep your chid up a little bit later in the evening by approximately 15 mins a night. This works best if naps have been adequate, so if your baby is not a great napper it may be helpful to offer a little extra soothing or nap support to increase afternoon sleep. Be sure to keep house lights on BRIGHT in the evening or run some evening errands at big box stores or supermarkets with ultra bright lighting in the evening this week since it will now be dark outside quite early.
Note: Older preschoolers (ages 3-4) will be able to handle larger shifts at once, up to 30 minutes.
Real Life Example: On Thursday, Caleb woke just 45 mins into his afternoon nap which started at 1:45, but mom was able to respond right away and rock/nurse him back into another sleep cycle and the nap ended up lasting 90 minutes. Bedtime is usually around 7:15pm for Caleb, but that evening his parents kept the house lights on nice and bright and started their bedtime routine about 15 minutes later than the usual 6:45pm, and put Caleb down closer to 7:30pm. (Dim the lights for the last 15-20 mins or so before your child’s goal bedtime). On Friday morning, Caleb actually slept in until 6:20am thanks to morning darkness/feeding delay and evening light/later bedtime. The shift is happening! This allowed nap #1 and subsequently nap #2 to shift a tad later and Caleb’s parents had no problem keeping him up for another 15 minutes on Friday night. He went to bed around 7:45pm. By Saturday morning Caleb is sleeping in until 6:40am, and going to bed at 8pm on Saturday night and naps have shifted as well. On Sunday morning, 11/1 with a bedtime of 8pm the night before, Caleb wakes at 6am – back to his usual time since the clocks changed at 2am. He has NOT lost an hour of sleep. 6am on Sunday morning, is the same as 7am the day before. By Sunday evening, with the clocks shifted, Caleb will have no trouble going to bed at the NEW 7:15pm (the OLD 8:15pm) and waking at the NEW 6am (the old 7am). He’s back where he started.
- As bedtime shifts later slowly each night, watch for morning wake time to shift with it. Allow for several days for the shift to occur. If morning wake time has not improved (and feeding and light cues have been delayed), some sleep training may be required.
1. On Saturday, November 5, if things went as planned, your baby will actually be going to bed 45-60 mins LATER than usual, but on Sunday, November 2 you will be back to usual time by the clock.
2. For babies with a too late bedtime – parents may decide to do nothing and allow the clock change to simply shift their schedule 1 hour earlier. For example, a preschooler who no longer naps but also doesn’t fall asleep until 8pm and has to be awakened (with protest) for school at 6:30am is chronically a tad sleep deprived. His natural morning wake time on the weekends appears to be more like 7:15am. On Saturday this child will go to bed as usual at 8pm and his parents should allow him to wake at his natural wake time on Sunday morning (NEW 6:15am, OLD 7:15am). He did not lose an hour of sleep – the clocks simply changed. On Sunday evening, his parents should put him to bed at the NEW 7pm (old 8pm) and he will wake on Monday morning for school at 6:15am, well rested with 11+ hours of sleep.
Steps to shift more rapidly (we will also post a FULL BLOG on this later in the week, but we strongly encourage you not to wait!): Older children will be able to handle a bigger shift in bedtime. In addition, a child who has an extra-good nap in the late afternoon may be able to go to bed as much as an hour later than usual all at once. If you think your child can handle a big jump, then go ahead and do it. Just remember that it is unlikely your child will sleep in on the next morning. It will still take about three days for your child’s body to start to signal sleep later in the morning. When considering making a big jump, it’s important to weigh the impact of whether your child will be able to handle the sleep loss that will come with it for a few days.
Finally, please don’t over-think this! We like to give real life examples and lots of details for some relevance but it doesn’t have to be super complicated or meticulously regimented. Just remember this – darkness in the morning will help allow your baby to sleep in later but equally important is extra LIGHT in the evening! Ask us a question on Facebook or sign up for a sleep consult for more information – we are happy to help!