How to get your kids to fall asleep when the clocks ‘fall back’
The time change is coming (again) and you may be wondering how this is going to affect your child’s sleep patterns. This small change can really mess with your entire family’s sleep schedule, and if you already have an early riser it may seem unfathomable to be starting the day at 4:30am instead of your “leisurely” 5:30am wake-up call, ah!
During the “fall back” time change, we will move our clocks back an hour at 2am on November 7th. This is considered the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) and the beginning of early morning wake-ups for most families.
How can we make this easier on our babies—and ourselves—and maybe even improve our sleep situation in the meantime? Here are some tips to help your kids fall asleep as our clocks “fall back” once again:
Adjust ahead of time.
Some families find it really valuable to help their children adjust leading up to the time change. This can be a great solution for you and your children to not even feel a blip when the time change comes.
The week prior to the time change, start by shifting your bedtime and your morning wake-up routine. For example, if your child goes to bed regularly at 7pm, shift bedtime to 7:15pm. Continue to shift this each evening by 15 minutes until you reach 8pm, which will soon become 7pm again soon!
Same with wake up, if your little one usually wakes up at 6:30am and calls out, wait 10–15 minutes before going to get them to start the day. Every day, wait a little longer until you are closer to 7:30am which will soon become 6:30am again.
Wait for the change to happen and then adjust quickly.
Similar to jet lag—sometimes it can actually be helpful to just dive in and go with the new time knowing that there may be a few nights or mornings with extra disruptions. On day one of the time change, try putting your little one to bed around their normal bedtime. You can do this by waking them from naps if needed. So, if they are normally in bed at 7pm, then put them down then, even though it may feel like 8pm.
During our fall-back time change, bedtime typically isn’t the main challenge, it’s the wake-up time. Your normal wake-up time of 6:30am, now turns into 5:30am which can be a tough adjustment for all involved.
Use visual aids with older children.
It can be helpful to teach your children about acceptable wake-up times through the use of visual aids. There are many great products out there to help with the transition, like wake-up clocks that turn a different colour or light up when it’s time to start the day. You can set the time that it is okay to get out of bed and during the time change, it can be helpful to set the wake-up time to a little earlier than normal so your child can adjust. For example, if your little one wakes up at 7am, this will suddenly feel like 6am, so set the clock for 6:30am or 6:15am for the first few days and slowly edge back to your 7am wake up as their body adjusts.
Use your bedtime routine as a form of encouragement.
Your bedtime routine can be a really great way to help stretch the time if you are struggling. If your child is tired earlier than normal because the new 7pm is actually 8pm, try stretching the awake time a bit with an extra-long bath. Most children will enjoy playing in the bath for a little while longer and it can be a really nice distraction and a great place for imaginative play. A bedtime snack can also be a great way to help your child ease into bedtime, usually, a bedtime snack can give your little one an extra boost of energy to stay awake happier and longer.
Overall, during the time change, we usually find that it can take about a week for your child to fall back into their normal routines and wake-up patterns. If they are struggling longer than this or having a hard time adjusting, it is likely because their little bodies are overtired. When a child is overtired at bedtime it can lead to overnight wakings, night terrors and even earlier morning starts because naturally overtired children spend more time in light stages of sleep. So you may need to adjust bedtime earlier for a period of time as they take a bit longer to adjust.
This time change can be such a challenge for families, with overtired children, early mornings and schedules that go out the window, so I imagine that parents everywhere are hoping that this time change may become one of the last. Here’s to hoping!