How To Adjust Baby & Toddler Sleep For Daylight Saving Time
Fall back, but keep their sleep schedule on track.
Twice a year, parents white knuckle their coffee mugs through a time change. Aside from the nursery-rhyme style trick to remember that you fall back in the fall, it’s confusing as can be to remember whether the end of daylight saving time (DST — and no “s” at the end, FYI) the second Sunday in November means you lose or gain an hour with the biannual clock shift. Honestly, they can both spell disaster for parents of littles and wreak havoc on carefully constructed sleep schedules. So, how do you fall back and adjust a baby or toddler’s sleep schedule for DST?
Depending on your child’s age and what their sleep schedule looks like, DST can be tricky, to say the least. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not survivable. Knowing how DST impacts your baby’s sleep and how to get their schedule back on track can help.
Does daylight savings time affect baby’s sleep?
Babies need a lot of sleep — approximately 14 to 17 hours of sleep from ages 0 to 3 months and between 12 to 15 hours total (including naps) once they start sleeping through the night, as Romper previously reported. Toddlers need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep daily, also inclusive of naps. Put simply, little ones need their rest.
Falling back an hour will absolutely impact your baby’s sleep, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.
Data collected by Owlet Baby Care through the use of their sleep monitoring systems revealed that the overall quality of a baby’s sleep was not impacted by time changes. The chart below shows the measurement of sleep efficiency — calculated by examining the minutes slept and number of wakings while wearing the Owlet sock baby monitor — for more than 100,000 babies wearing the monitor three days before and three days after time changes from 2020 to 2022. (This data was also compared to random July time periods for control purposes.)
So, your baby will get good rest despite the time change, but their sleep schedule will still be off by an hour when DST ends. An hour may not sound like much time, but to a parent of a cranky kid, it’s an eternity.
“Since it's impossible to explain the reason why daylight savings time happens to a baby or toddler, expect baby will wake up at the same time they did the day prior, except an hour earlier according to the clock,” Christine Stevens, children's sleep consultant and owner of Sleep Solutions by Christine tells Romper. “Babies and toddlers don't ‘sleep in’ and once they're up for the day, they're up.”
How long does it take for babies to adjust to daylight savings?
Even if your baby’s sleep isn’t necessarily disturbed or made less restful by the time change, the shift is still an adjustment for all involved. “It can take one to two weeks for babies to fully adjust if they're on a fixed schedule,” Stevens tells Romper. “For newborns and babies not on a fixed schedule, parents should simply jump to the new time and use their baby's current wake windows to determine when to put baby down for a nap and bedtime.”
Think about it this way: Instead of a 7 p.m. bedtime, your child (who can’t tell time) may start to get sleepy around dinnertime instead. Their hunger cues will also be off by an hour, so toddler tantrums and fussiness can happen. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the urge to wake up at an unholy hour before the sun even thinks about peeking through the blinds. DST is basically an avalanche of scheduling chaos if you don’t get ahead of it.
How do I get my baby back on a sleep schedule for daylight savings?
As tempting as it may be, keeping your kid awake can make things worse. “Don't just keep baby up one hour more and have a tired, cranky baby that fights sleep,” Stevens says.
If you want to get your baby or toddler back on a solid sleep schedule during DST, these tips can help:
- Bolster your bedtime routine. A solid nighttime routine is key for babies and toddlers. Lock one in prior to DST.
- Make small adjustments. If you plan to shift your baby’s sleep schedule in accordance with the time change, you’ll need to adjust the rest of their routine as well. Stevens suggests doing nothing until Sunday morning, and then making gradual schedule changes once DST ends.
- Shift sleep times slightly. “On the first day of the time change, put baby down for the first nap 30 minutes earlier than you normally would,” Stevens suggests. “For instance, if nap time is normally 9 a.m., put baby down at 8:30 a.m. Repeat for naps and bedtime the rest of the day.”
- Get outside. A healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine during the day will ensure that your little one’s body is prepared for rest and help their circadian rhythm adjust. This is especially important when DST ends, since there’s less daylight to take advantage of.
- Follow your baby’s lead. If they seem tired, they probably are. It’s OK to shift things around, even when you’re trying to get your sleep schedule back on track.
How do babies survive daylight savings time?
Babies will 100% survive DST, but their parents’ sanity may not. You have a life to live, things to do, places to go, responsibilities to tend to, but an out-of-whack sleep schedule can throw a wrench in it all.
Just like you, your baby’s internal clock will adjust... eventually. Hang in there.
Christine Stevens, children's sleep consultant and owner of Sleep Solutions by Christine