Tips for Handling the End of Daylight Savings with Kids
October 16, 2023
Summer has drawn to a close and fall is in full effect, bringing with it crisp autumn air, pumpkin spice everything, and the end of daylight savings time. This year, the clocks will fall back one hour at 2 AM on Sunday, November 5. For people without young children, “falling back” means an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, but for people with babies and toddlers, the time change may mean that the whole family will be woken up extra early. Young children are equipped with a strong circadian rhythm and a seemingly endless supply of energy, and although the clocks may move, their sleep schedules do not. If your little one goes to bed at 7 PM and typically wakes at 7 AM, you can expect them to be awake and bright-eyed at 6 AM on Sunday, then overtired and irritable by their usual bedtime that evening. Talk about the Sunday scaries! Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize the less-than-pleasant effects from this abrupt change. Here are our tips for “falling back” like a pro when you have young kids:
Adjust little by little, ahead of time
The most effective way to make this transition as gentle as possible is to plan ahead and do it gradually. Starting the week before the clocks go back, push your child’s bedtime later by 15 minute increments. So, if your little one typically goes to sleep at 8 PM, put them to bed at 8:15 PM on October 29. The next day, do 8:30, then 8:45, and so on, until their bedtime is at 9 PM. You can stay at a 9 PM bedtime for a few days, and then when the clocks go back, their circadian rhythm will take care of the rest.
Keep daily wake time consistent
While it’s tempting to let your child sleep in on the weekend so that you can sleep in on the weekend, it’s actually better to wake up at the same time every day. First thing each morning, draw the curtains to make the room nice and bright to help them feel wide awake. When it’s bedtime, make sure they have an optimal sleep environment—quiet and dark (with the exception of a sound machine). Staying consistent with wake time and bedtime will help your little one set their body clock and adjust to the time change quicker. This is especially important if you have a school-aged child. In the winter, the sun rises later, making the mornings darker and much harder to get up in the mornings. If you let your little one sleep in on Sunday, getting up and ready for school on Monday will be a much harder task. If you do allow sleeping in, try to keep the difference to no more than an hour.
Install blackout curtains
Because the clocks go back an hour, you’ll find that the morning of November 5 is much brighter outside than usual when your alarm goes off. Exposure to light signals our bodies to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. If you have a baby, chances are that blackout curtains are already installed in the nursery. If not, do yourself a favor and get your hands on true blackout curtains. Not only will it make naps a lot easier, it’ll help your kiddo stay sleepy until their usual wake time even after daylight savings ends.
The start and end of daylight savings time is hard on everyone, not just kids. Many adults find the time change jarring, even though they experience it every year. Our brains are hard-wired to the 24-hour light/dark cycle and the 1-hour time change alters our circadian rhythm. Instead of getting frustrated with your kids when they’re hyperactive early in the morning or a cranky mess by the end of the night, set realistic expectations and know that things will get better within a few weeks.
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About the Author: Alice
Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.