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How to Adjust Babies and Little Kids to Daylight Saving Time
Updated on
February 21, 2024

How to Adjust Babies and Little Kids to Daylight Saving Time

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How to Adjust Babies and Little Kids to Daylight Saving Time.
How to Adjust Babies and Little Kids to Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time begins Sunday, March 10, this year, and while that may mean we get another hour of much-needed sunlight, it also means the dreaded disruption to the sleep schedules of babies and toddlers.

Seasoned parents know that these hard-earned schedules are established by circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental and behavioral changes we experience during a 24-hour period to help us differentiate between day and night. (Think: sunlight and stimulation in the morning tell your body it’s time to get up, while a warm bath and dark room at bedtime aids us in falling asleep.) These rhythms “start to develop by three to four months of age when children begin to have a more regular schedule,” explains Dr. Nilong Vyas, a board-certified pediatrician and expert sleep coach.

But the irony parents know all too well is that while we’re about to set our clocks forward one hour, our progress in getting our kids to be good sleepers might take two steps back. This means that if you usually put your baby down at 7 p.m., they might be confused or wide awake because it’s still light out, and in the morning, they might be trying to sleep an hour later, which could send the entire family’s schedule in chaos. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Help with adjusting your baby or toddler is here: Dr. Vyas has shared her top tips below on how parents can better prepare their kids for the time change for a smooth, (mostly) stress-free transition.

Steps to Take to Adjust Babies and Little Kids to Daylight Savings

Spread the Time Change Across Four Days

In order to help your kids ease into the time change more seamlessly, Dr. Vyas recommends shifting your child’s sleep earlier by 15 minutes every day for four days, starting on the Thursday before daylight saving time begins. “If your current schedule is sleeping from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., start bedtime at 6:45 p.m. and wake them up at 6:45 a.m. [on the first day],” she explains. “Continue shifting sleep 15 minutes a day earlier,” for the next few days, “at which point your child’s post-DST sleep schedule should be the same as their pre-DST sleep schedule (ex: 7 p.m.–7 a.m. clock time).” If it’s too difficult to get your child to bed earlier, which is often the case with older kids, Dr. Vyas recommends just focusing on waking them up 15 minutes earlier each day instead.

Set the Tone Before Bedtime

If you don’t yet have a solid bedtime routine, now’s the time to make one. While it may be tempting to let your kids run around to let out their energy up until the moment you tuck them in, Dr. Vyas recommends doing a few key things to signal that bedtime is near. “Dim the lights in your child’s bedroom (and throughout the house) and turn off all electronics an hour before they’re meant to go to sleep,” she says. Instead of screen time, try quietly reading them a book once they’re in their pajamas to help them relax and wind down for bed. “Blackout curtains are also helpful, especially if it’s still light outside at bedtime. And a sound machine can also help a child sleep if they have gotten off track after the time change.” Need all the help you can get? Here are a few more products that can help baby sleep.

If You Have an Early Riser, Do Nothing

While this advice may seem like a trick, Dr. Vyas explains that trying to change things up for certain types of sleepers might not be the best thing. “If your child is an early riser, daylight saving time is great,” she says. “If they were waking up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 7 p.m., their wake time will be much more tolerable now, getting up at 6 a.m. and going down at 8 p.m., so you do not want to rock the boat here.” The only thing you should keep a close eye on is—if they’re in school—ensuring their morning routine is still on track so they won’t be late!

How to Gently Wake Up Babies and Little Kids If They’re Having Trouble With the Time Change

Daylight saving time can not only make bedtime more of a challenge with kids and babies, but it can also make waking them in the morning a dreaded task due to them feeling groggy and tired. To help minimize these effects, Dr. Vyas recommends surrounding them with as much light as possible. “Natural sunlight is best, but you can also turn on lights in the house so it’s bright to start their ‘wake-up’ clock,” she says. So, feel free to open all the curtains and, once they start stirring, maybe put a fun and upbeat song on to kick start their day!

Things to Remember When Falling Back in November

Once your family gets into a good rhythm again post-time change, the next daylight saving time tends to sneak up on you before you know it (it “ends” on November 3, 2024).

When you do have to deal with this when the clocks fall back an hour, Dr. Vyas’s advice is to keep these same principles in mind when helping your kids adjust. “Fall daylight saving time can be trickier for many families, but the goal is the same: start at least a few days before the time change in altering their schedule, but this time, since the clock will be adjusting backward, put them to bed 15 minutes later and wake them up 15 minutes later until you are at the correct wake time,” she says.

Being a parent basically feels like you have at least 40 tabs open in your brain at all times, and daylight saving time sometimes seems like a cruel and unnecessary one to add twice a year. If you’re feeling stressed or intimidated by the looming time change, know that you’re not alone and that you can do this! “These shifts do not last forever,” Dr. Vyas says. “In order to get over it in a week as opposed to months of sleep disruption, just plan ahead and be prepared.”

Caitlin Gallagher

Caitlin is a lifestyle and parenting writer.

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