Expert sleep help and sleep advice for parents of babies, toddlers and children on adjusting to the time change

Daylight Saving Time means that most of us in the US will be turning back the clock by one hour on Sunday November 3rd.  And while some may revel in the thought of getting an extra hour of sleep, the idea can strike fear in the hearts of parents with young children as you imagine your little early birds getting up for the day even earlier than before.

But before you start to panic, here are 4 tips to help your family “fall back” as smoothly as possible.

1) Whenever possible, start gradually making the shift to a later schedule a few days beforehand. Move bedtime just a little later now, and likewise encourage your children to stay in bed a little bit later in the morning.  If keeping them in bed isn’t a possibility, delay the official start of your morning and act like it’s still night time for the first 15 minutes or so after rising by keeping the lighting very low, whispering, etc.  After that first little while has passed, greet the day by turning up the lights, throwing back the curtains, and doing other small rituals to signal that it’s time for everyone to get their day started.  Keep shifting back each day by 15 minutes until you’ve moved a full hour ahead, so that when Sunday morning arrives you’re already adjusted to the new time.

2) Use the familiarity of your children’s whole schedule to your advantage. If possible, start shifting other timed events of the day back as well so that your children’s entire frame of reference can shift.  For very young children who spend the day at home this can mean pushing back all of their mealtimes and nap times by 15 minutes each day.  But even for older children or little ones who spend the day at daycare of nursery school, you may be able to make small adjustments in dinner and nap time.

3) Do a full virtual time change at home on Saturday morning.  Assuming that your family enjoys a traditional weekend without work or school, try changing the clocks at home before you go to bed on the night of Friday, November 1st, and use the new time on the clock to plan meals and other parts of your day on Saturday. This will give everyone an extra day to adjust to the new time before Monday rolls around.  Even if  you weren’t able to gradually shift schedules back over the previous days, you’ll at least have two full days to adjust to the full hour difference.  Just remember that sports practice and other regular Saturday activities outside of home will still be on the old time!

4) Use the time change as an opportunity to rein in bedtimes that have crept too late.  Are you still trying to recover from letting things go this summer, when you decided that watching one more show or playing one more game was ok?  Now is your perfect chance to get bedtime back on track without too much protest.  If your kids are turning in at 8 now, on Sunday they’ll be more than ready to throw in the towel at 7:30.

Just remember, moms and dads: with a little planning to help cushion the drop, falling back needn’t be as painful as you fear.

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