Adjusting Sleep Schedules for Spring Daylight Saving Time

By Larissa O’Loughlin

February 22, 2021

While we all probably wish the time change didn’t exist in the first place, we still must cope with the schedule shift twice a year. Before having kids, this didn’t seem like a big deal. But now as parents, Daylight Saving’s can throw things way out of whack leaving everyone feeling exhausted.

There is some good news! I find the Spring Forward time change to be less challenging than Fall Back. At 2 am on March 14 Daylight Saving Time will end, and we will “lose” an hour as the clocks move forward to 3 am. So what does this mean for our kids’ sleep!? Well, a bedtime of 7 pm becomes 8 pm and wake-up of 6 am becomes 7 am. If your child is stuck in an early bedtime – early morning cycle, this time change will be perfect for you, and you don’t have to do a thing!

However, doing nothing won’t work for everyone! A newborn’s bedtime is already late, so the prospect of pushing that back even further doesn’t sound great. And sleeping later in the morning may not be feasible for babies who go to daycare or children who attend preschool. Or, you may just prefer your child have an early bedtime. If you fall into any of these categories, continue reading for different adjustment methods and tips!

I like to consider the following factors when choosing how to adjust kids’ schedules for Daylight Saving: the child’s age, your parenting style, and your childcare situation. I’ll break down three different methods of adjusting and the different factors to keep in mind when choosing one for your family.

Gradual Shift Method:

How: Adjust your child’s schedule earlier by about 15-20 minutes each day 3-4 days prior to the time change. For example, if your child typically wakes for the day at 7:30 am, wake them at 7:15 am and put them down fifteen minutes earlier than their typical nap time. If your baby usually goes to bed at 7:30 pm, put them down around 7:15 pm. If you have an older kiddo and you are using a Toddler Clock, be sure to adjust the times on the clock gradually as well!

Best for: Kiddos who need to be up in the morning by a certain time, babies who are sensitive to schedule changes, kiddos with low sleep needs, parents who prefer to stick to a strict by-the-clock schedule.

Go with the Flow Method:

How: On the day before the time change, wake your child up one hour earlier than they typically rise. For example, if your baby wakes at 7:30, wake them at 6:30. Continue to shift their schedule one hour early as the day goes on, with a goal of putting them to bed one hour earlier than normal. Follow the “new” time on the day of the time change, continuing to wake your child in the morning as needed to stick to your schedule.

Best for: Babies whose schedules still run off of wake windows (0-6 months typically), parents who don’t want to disrupt anything before the actual time change, and babies who take one nap or kiddos who have dropped their nap (less moving parts to worry about!).

Hands Off Method:

How: Do nothing! Don’t change anything with your child’s schedule. After the time change, your child will go to bed later and wake up later, which works well for some families. The schedule may naturally move earlier over time.

Best for: Babies stuck in an early bedtime – early morning cycle, kids who don’t need to be at daycare or preschool early in the morning, parents who don’t want to worry about making adjustments.

General Tips

No matter which method you choose, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

Darkness is your friend!: With this time change it will be lighter out for longer in the evening. If you haven’t yet found a solution to blackout your child’s windows, now is the time! Darkness triggers the body to secrete melatonin, a hormone that aids in sleep. Invest in permanent blackout blinds or a temporary solution like these.

Increase Activity: Because this time change is all about shifting things earlier, you may be looking to put your child down when they are less tired than normal. If possible, offer more outside time or more stimulating indoor activities during the day — this will increase their sleep drive and make bedtime and naps come easier.

Cap Naps: If needed, wake your baby from the last nap of the day to preserve your desired bedtime. This is especially important for babies 0-6 months, whose schedules still primarily rely on tracking wake windows.

Keep Your Routines: Continue to use your existing bedtime routine when getting your child ready for naps and bed — don’t skip because you’re looking to put them down earlier! A routine helps cue them it’s time for sleep.

Expect some bumps in the road: No matter which method you choose, things typically work themselves out by 1-2 weeks after the time change. Be patient, and trust that you and your baby will get back into the groove soon!

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