Baby and Child Sleep: Adjustments for the Spring Daylight Saving Time Change

What the Daylight Saving time change means for your baby, how the time change will affect your baby’s sleep and how to adjust your baby’s schedule so you can help your baby get the sleep they need to achieve their dreams.

On Sunday, March 10th, 2024 we “Spring Forward” with the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Although the spring-forward time change brings brighter mornings and longer days, it can also be a little disorienting and have an impact on the sleep of our babies and young children. Many parents fear this time change as it may also bring early wakings, bedtime battles, and new sleep challenges leading to cranky, sleep-deprived children (and parents!). 

Fear not!! I’m here to help you navigate this to ensure a smooth transition for your family. In fact, the “Spring Forward” time change tends to be less disruptive to your child’s sleep than the Fall Back or end of Daylight Savings time change. And if you have an earlier riser already, you may actually feel like you are getting a bit more sleep this weekend! WIN!!

How Daylight Saving Time Can Affect Sleep for Babies and Young Children

We essentially lose an hour of sleep with The Daylight Saving Time change means we essentially lose an hour of sleep. This can disrupt your child’s natural circadian rhythms or sleep-wake cycles. For babies, whose sleep patterns are still developing, and young children who thrive on routine and consistency, the disruption can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the usual times.

When the times of the clock shift, our bodies’ sleep clock now has to adjust as well. Typically, this adjustment should only take a few days. To help your child’s sleep clock adjust, it’s essential to maintain consistency in your baby’s sleep schedule and prioritize sleep. Although it may be tempting to stay up later and enjoy that extra time in the sun, stick to your child’s routine and lean into those early bedtimes to allow the body time to adjust.

How to prepare for the Daylight Saving time change?

Set your child’s room up for sleep to help them get the sleep they need during this time change. 

1. Set Up a Sleep Environment for Success

  • Darken the room. The sun will be peaking in earlier and staying up later so a dark room will help your little one prepare for sleep.  Add blackout shades to help keep the room dark for sleep.
  • Add a white noise. Birds (and your neighbors) may also be waking earlier. White noise can help drown out house and nature noises that may wake our little ones before they are ready. Learn how white noise can improve your child’s sleep here!
  • Adjust your child’s toddler alarm clock. If you are using a toddler alarm clock, don’t forget to adjust the time before you go to bed so it is easier for your child to understand when it is time to wake for the day. Check out my favorites here!

2. Get Outside

Exposure to natural light plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm. During the day, ensure your child gets plenty of natural light exposure, especially in the morning. Open the curtains, go for walks outside, or spend time in well-lit rooms. Natural light helps reset their internal clock and signals to their body that it’s daytime. Enjoy the bright light in the morning and then dim lights in the evening to help your biological sleep clock stay on track.

3. Avoid Stimulating Activities Before Bedtime

Stimulating activities, such as playing with loud toys or watching screens, can make it difficult for your child’s body to wind down before bedtime. The use of screens before sleep can suppress melatonin and activate the brain. Refrain from using screens at least an hour before sleep. Instead, opt for calm and quiet activities that promote relaxation. Engage in quiet play, read a soothing book, or listen to soft music. Creating an ideal sleep routine can help your baby or child transition to sleep more easily.

How to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule for the Spring Forward Daylight Saving time change?

Babies and young children are more sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule compared to adults. Their internal clocks are still developing, and any disruption to their routine can have a big impact on their sleep patterns. When DST begins, it means that their bedtime, nap times, and wake-up times will suddenly shift by an hour.

For some babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, this time change might not cause any major issues. They might naturally adjust within a few days. However, for others, it can take up to a week or more for their sleep patterns to return to normal. During this adjustment period, you may notice your child is more fussy, having difficulty falling asleep, or waking up earlier than usual.

It’s important to remember that every child is different, and your children may have different reactions to the time changes. Some babies might be more sensitive to disruptions in their routine, while others may adapt quickly. Knowing whether your child is a sensitive or adaptable sleeper may actually help you decide how to adjust your child’s schedule for the spring-forward time change. 

Sensitive sleepers:

If your baby is a sensitive sleeper you may want to consider making minor scheduled adjustments over several days to help them adjust to the new times of the clock. 

Here are some characteristics of sensitive sleepers:

  • Struggles to sleep in a new sleep environment 
  • Easily aroused by noises or lights 
  • Gets over stimulated by noises, lights and other distractions
  • Needs a sleep prop or parent to go to sleep and/or stay asleep

For sensitive sleepers, one of the most effective ways to help your child adjust to the time change is to gradually shift their sleep schedule leading up to DST. Start by moving their bedtime, naps, and wake-up time 10-15 minutes earlier each day for 4 days leading up to the time change. This gradual adjustment will help their body clock adapt to the new time without any sudden disruptions.

If your baby is a more sensitive sleeper, adjust your baby’s nap times even more gradually. If your baby typically takes two naps a day, start by shifting the morning nap by 10-15 minutes earlier each day leading up to DST. Once the time change occurs, adjust the afternoon nap as well. By aligning their naps with the new time, you can help regulate their internal clock and promote better sleep.

Adaptable Sleepers:

If your baby is an adaptable sleeper, you may just adjust your child’s sleep schedule by 30 minutes over two days or to the new time of the clock on Sunday. 

Here are some characteristics of adaptable sleepers:

  • Is able to sleep elsewhere but prefers their own sleep environment 
  • Sleeps through noises or minor light disruptions
  • Confidently falls asleep independently
  • Well-rest and can be flexible when needed

If your child is well-rested, set your clocks ahead and enjoy the extra sleep. And that is it!  Don’t forget to adjust their toddler alarm clocks before bedtime too!

Spring Forward Time Change Sleep Tips for the Whole Family

Regardless of whether or not you shift your child’s schedule gradually or just jump right in, it will take a bit of time for our bodies to adjust to the spring-forward time change. 

Here are a few tips to help everyone in your family adjust to the time change:

Time Change Sleep Tips for the Family

  1. Early bedtimes. A few nights of offering a bit more sleep can help everyone get back on track after the time change.
  2. Replace screens with outside time. Use natural light to help your family adjust to the new time of the clock. Since screens can suppress melatonin and stimulate the brain, replace screen time with more outside time.
  3. Be consistent. During any transition, prioritizing consistency can help ensure a smooth adjustment. Be patient as everyone adjusts.

Finally, if your family is a well-rested family, they should easily respond to transitions like these. If your child is still struggling after 2 weeks, schedule a call with me so we can align the SLEEP puzzle pieces and get everyone back on track.

Don’t forget! As you are changing all your clocks this weekend, test and change the batteries in your home’s smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to help keep everyone safe. 

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