At 2:00 AM this coming Sunday, November 5, most of the United States will turn back the clock by one hour. So, what would have been 7:00 AM on the clock Saturday will be 6:00 AM on Sunday.

Some people describe the change as “gaining an hour”. This can be a blessing for adults, teens and some children who have trouble getting up in the morning in time for work and school.

However, most young children wake pretty early on their own. And they certainly aren’t likely to “sleep in” based on what the clock says. Instead, they’ll get up their usual time which, clock-wise, is actually an hour earlier. This can wreak havoc on the whole family’s sleep and on parents’ sanity.

Here is a survival guide for dealing with this new “wrinkle in time” at your house.

If possible, start gradually making the shift to a new schedule a few days ahead.

It helps to start making some adjustments ahead of time when you can. So, for example, since DST ends on a Sunday morning, you can move bedtime a little later on Thursday or Friday, and likewise encourage your children to stay in bed (or leave the baby in her crib) a little bit later in the morning.   Keep adjusting rising and bedtimes 15-20 minutes each day until you’ve moved a full hour later, so that when Monday morning arrives you’re already adjusted to the new time.

Use the familiarity of your children’s whole routine to your advantage.

If you possibly can, start shifting other timed events of the day such as mealtimes and bath time so that your children’s entire body clock can shift. Use the flexibility of the weekend to shift mealtimes for older children and nap times for little ones who spend weekdays at daycare or nursery school.

Make a quick advance time change at your house all at once on Saturday morning.

If making a gradual change isn’t an option or just seems like too much trouble, try changing the clocks at home a day early. Set the clocks back one hour before you go to bed on Friday night, and use the new time on the clock as you go about your day on Saturday. This gives your family a “bonus day” to adjust before Monday comes around.  Just remember that birthday parties, sports and other activities outside of the house will still be on the “official” clock time!

Make the relationship between light and melatonin work for you.

Whether you want to move a schedule up or back, controlling your family’s exposure to light can help. Exposure to light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to fall asleep at night and easier to wake up in the morning. Draw the curtains and dim interior lights during the first hour of the morning in the days leading up to the time change. After that first hour has passed, greet the day by turning on all the lights, throwing back the curtains and even going outside if possible.  In the early evening as the sun starts to set, use interior lighting to keep your house extra bright for an extra hour. Once the time on the clock shifts, go back to doing things normally without making an effort to adjust light exposure.

Try to be extra mindful of schedules during this time.

It’s very easy to let mealtimes and bedtimes creep later. This is totally fine and may even be helpful in the days leading up to Sunday. But you will want to be extra careful to NOT do so in the days after, when bedtime will already feel “late”. This is also a good opportunity to model good self-care to your children by being mindful about your own sleep. Show your children that healthy sleep is important to you, the parents, as well as to the family as a whole.

With a little preparation and attention to detail, “falling back” can be an easier ride this year!

Sasha Carr

Dr. Sasha Carr is a psychologist and child sleep expert who has helped over 1000 families get healthier sleep. Dr. Carr serves as a faculty member of the Family Sleep Institute and is the author of Putting Bungee to Bed, a bedtime picture book aimed at helping children be better sleepers. You can learn more about her services here.

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