Autumn is a delightful season, characterized by crisp air, the transformation of leaves into vibrant colors, and the perfect opportunity to snuggle up in cozy woolen layers. However, it also signifies the conclusion of daylight saving time in the United States on November 6, 2023 (and a week earlier in Europe, ending on Sunday, October 30, 2023). As a result, the clocks are set back by one hour, granting an extra hour of sleep, unless you have a young child.
Every year, we hear stories from people whose toddlers seem to possess an inexplicable ability to miscalculate the time change. Instead of enjoying an additional hour of sleep, these little ones wake up two hours earlier, causing frustration and sleep deprivation for their parents.
Given mombabyblog.com’s focus on improving children’s sleep, we became curious about the true impact of daylight saving time on children. Does it genuinely affect them in a distorted manner, and if so, how can we mitigate its effects?
Why does the time change affect a baby’s sleep?
The wake times of babies are predominantly regulated by their circadian rhythm or internal clock. While the clock on the wall may indicate that it is an hour earlier after the fall-back time change, a baby’s internal clock tells a different story. Consequently, it is likely that your baby will wake up earlier until their internal clock adjusts to waking up later. This adjustment process involves shifting the circadian rhythm through exposure to light.
Methods to adjust baby sleep for the fall back time change
Since sleep times are also influenced by sleep pressure, abruptly putting your child to bed an hour later and expecting them to wake up at their usual time in the morning can backfire. This sudden change in bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns and result in early waking.
However, there is hope! Here are two strategies to manage the time change in autumn and minimize disruptions to your child’s sleep:
This approach is best suited for babies who are 4 months and older, children who easily become overtired, early risers, and parents who prefer planning ahead.
For each of the four days leading up to the clock change:
– Delay bedtime by 15 minutes and keep bright lights on in the evening.
– Keep the lights off for an additional 15 minutes in the morning.
– If possible, gradually shift the entire sleep and eating schedule by 15 minutes later each day.
This method is more suitable for children who are aged 1 year and older and do not easily become overtired.
For each of the two days prior to the clock change:
– Delay bedtime by 30 minutes and keep bright lights on in the evening.
– Extend the darkness in the morning by 30 minutes.
– If possible, shift the entire sleep and eating schedule by 30 minutes later each day.
By implementing these strategies, parents can help their children adjust to the time change more smoothly, ensuring a better night’s sleep for the entire family.
Is it worth adjusting your child’s sleep for daylight saving time?
We conducted an analysis using a dataset of approximately 2,000 children from the United States and Canada. This dataset was derived from our company’s user base, which consists of a tracking app and utilizes the expertise of pediatric sleep specialists and AI to create personalized sleep plans for children. We specifically examined how children were impacted by the previous year’s time change.
Around 44% of parents made adjustments to their children’s sleep routine by putting them to bed 30 minutes or later than usual on the night before daylight saving time (DST). This is a commendable effort.
However, 34% of children still ended up waking up 30 minutes or even earlier than their usual wake-up time on the morning after DST. For instance, if a child typically woke up at 7:00 AM prior to the time change, they would wake up at 6:30 AM or earlier, even with the parental adjustment. This effect was more pronounced in toddlers and preschoolers compared to infants (40% versus 32%).
Additionally, 18% of children woke up an extra hour or earlier according to the “new” time displayed on the clock.
While the majority of children either woke up close to their regular time or even slept in, it is worth noting that approximately one-third of families should not anticipate any additional sleep as a result of the time change.
The key takeaway is to still take measures to adjust for the end of daylight saving time, ensuring that your child doesn’t fall into an early waking cycle. However, it is important not to be disheartened if you miss out on the extra hour of sleep, as many families are in the same situation.
Q: Does the time change affect baby sleep?
Generally, yes. However, the extent to which it affects baby sleep depends on the strength of their internal clock and whether parents make efforts to shift their child’s circadian rhythm. It is common for children to wake up early after the fall-back time change.
Q: How long does it take for babies to adjust to daylight saving time?
It typically takes about a week for babies to fully adjust to a time change, although some may require several weeks to fully acclimate.
Q: Can you adjust a newborn’s sleep after daylight saving time ends?
A: These tips are most effective for babies who are at least 4-5 months old and have a relatively consistent sleep schedule. Newborns, who do not yet have a fully developed circadian rhythm, rely more on sleep pressure than their internal clock to regulate their sleep patterns. Consequently, their sleep tends to be less predictable, as seen in the newborn sleep schedule.
Q: How is adjusting a baby’s sleep for the fall-back time change different from the spring-forward time change?
During the fall time change, you need to shift your child’s schedule later, which involves moving sleep and meal times to later in the day. On the other hand, during the spring-forward time change, you would need to shift meal and sleep times earlier to maintain their current schedule. However, the spring-forward time change also presents an opportunity to correct an early rising schedule.
Q: My baby is waking up early after the end of daylight saving time. Is that normal?
Yes, it is normal for babies to wake up early after the clocks change in the fall. Since their internal clock has not yet adjusted to the “new” time on the clock, they are likely to continue waking up early until they adapt to the time change. Keeping the environment dark until your desired morning wake-up time and exposing them to bright lights before their bedtime routine can help your baby adjust to the time change.