How to manage your child’s sleep schedule during the fall time change

The end of daylight saving time is this weekend in many parts of the country. The clock moves back one hour (and we gain one hour) on Sunday, November 1, 2020. As parents of young children, gaining an extra hour in the day takes on a new meaning. The childless days of sleeping an extra hour are likely to be replaced by an extra hour of managing a tired child who is waking earlier than usual. You may wonder if and how this time change will impact your child’s sleep (and yours, too!).

Below are some guidelines to help your child adjust to the time change. Breathe easy because, for most children, the adjustment period typically lasts no longer than two to three days.

For babies and toddlers:

For young children who are still napping, stretch your child as far as you can toward their normal first nap time (according to the new clock—so if they usually nap at 10am, try to make it as close to the new 10am as possible). Even if your child is awake longer than usual and they want to nap earlier, do what you can to keep them awake and occupied!

Do the same thing for subsequent naps and bedtime—it will likely mean dealing with some cranky moments, but it will be worth the effort. By getting your child to nap at their regular time(s), you will help them achieve their regular bedtime without becoming too overtired (i.e., if regular bedtime is 7:30pm, aim for 7:30pm the first night of the time change because naps have been adjusted to compensate for the difference). By going to bed at the usual time, your child is less likely to wake early.

For preschoolers and children:

If your child is no longer napping, they may have a longer day ahead of them, given that their day may have started an hour earlier the day of the time change. Be sure to spend the day keeping to your child’s routines, activities and meals at the usual times (according to the new clock).

The night before the time change put your child to sleep at night a little later in hopes of them waking up later than usual. For example, based on a 7:30pm bedtime, bedtime would be moved later by 15 to 30 minutes to 7:45 or 8:00pm.

On the night of the time change and for the next couple of nights, adjust bedtime earlier, working towards regular bedtime. For example, if your child’s usual bedtime is 7:30pm, start with a 7:00pm bedtime (which will feel like 8:00pm to the child) and gradually increase to 7:30pm over next few nights (increments of 10 minutes are recommended). Initially, they may be overtired and irritable in the late afternoon but, after a few days, with the morning wake time slowly moving later, they will adjust.

To help you and your child sleep later, as sunrise is about one hour earlier after the time change, ensure that your child’s room is very dark (use room darkening shades if needed). Otherwise, you may find your child continuing to wake early in response to morning light. With patience and consistency this fall time change will soon be a distant memory.

Pleasant dreams!

Sunday, November 1, 2020, 2:00:00 am clocks are turned backward one hour to 
Sunday, November 1, 2020, 1:00:00 am local standard time instead.

Sunrise and sunset will be about one hour earlier on November 1, 2020 than the day before. There will be more light in the morning.

Also called Fall Back and Winter Time.

Dr. Nicky Cohen is a Registered Psychologist in private practice in Toronto. She received her Ph. D. in Clinical Psychology from York University and developed an interest in parenting issues related to children’s sleep disturbances after having her first child. She is active in the community disseminating information on healthy sleep practices and increasing awareness of the importance of making sufficient sleep a family priority. More information on Dr. Cohen’s work can be found at www.drnickycohen.com.

Dr. Pamela Mitelman is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in Montreal. She is the founder of The Kids’ Sleep Clinic, a private practice dedicated to treating children with sleep difficulties. Dr. Mitelman received her PsyD from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She is passionate about educating families on the importance of healthy sleep. More information about Dr. Mitelman and The Kids’ Sleep Clinic can be found at www.kidssleepclinic.com

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