The first Sunday in November brings about the end of Daylight Saving Time when we turn the clocks back one hour.
For most people this is an enjoyable time and one to look forward to, as the prospect of having an ‘extra’ hour to sleep is a welcomed thought.
However, if you have a child who is waking early, the approaching return to Standard Time can strike fear in the hearts of even the calmest parent. A child that was once waking at 5:00 a.m. will now be up at 4:00 a.m.
How can parents fix this issue?
Founder of Baby Sleep 101, Joleen Dilk Salyn, shares her tips below for parents to help kids adjust to the time change.
Determining a cause for the early wakings
The first step is to figure out why your child is waking up early. So how early is too early? It’s biologically appropriate for most children to wake naturally between 5:30 a.m. (don’t worry, this is actually quite rare) and 7:00 a.m. Anything earlier than that usually indicates that there is an issue causing the waking.
• Over-tiredness: The number one reason why children wake before 6:00 a.m. is that they are overtired at bedtime. If this is the case in your child, then you need to look at their overall routine and ensure that they’re getting the right amount of naps in the day and that bedtime is early.
• Hunger: If you have a baby under nine months of age, it may be possible that they are hungry and need a feed.
• Discomfort: If your child is sick or experiencing physical discomfort such as teething, wet diaper, too hot or cold, then this can also trigger a wake up at this time.
• Outside noise: In the early morning hours, we all are in the lightest stages of sleep and can be disturbed by outside noise more easily than during the earlier part of the evening. Anything that you can hear-garbage trucks, birds, street traffic may also be triggering a wake up.
How to help your child adjust
1. Do nothing
For an easy solution, just let nature and biology take over by following the new time right away. Our internal clocks or circadian rhythms are dictated by the amount and timing that our brains perceive light. As your little one is exposed to sunlight through out the day, it will naturally help to reset their internal clock.
If you have a child who is very sensitive to getting overtired, then they may need an earlier bedtime for several nights after to help compensate for the time difference. For instance if your child was going to bed at 7 p.m. previous, their body will be ready for bed at 6 p.m. On the Sunday you may need to have them in bed at 6 p.m., but you can move that ahead by 15 minutes every night after that.
2. Shift Forward to Fall Back
This is suitbale for children who are able to go with the flow. Start four days before the time change occurs and move your child’s entire routine ahead 15 minutes every day. Not just sleep periods but meals, wake up and playtime as well.
Shift Forward to Fall Back
This route takes a bit more time, but can help those children who get overtired easily. For this option you would begin about a full week before the time change and allow for some days of no shifting at all. This gives the child’s body a chance to catch up before being moved forward again. To increase the chances of success, it’s important that you leave your child in their bed longer, even if they continue to wake at the regular time.
If you’re trying this option, just like in option one, it’s important to move the whole day forward-including meal times and activity times.
3. Somewhere in between
This option is a middle of the road approach between not doing anything at all and trying to shift each day incrementally.
For this choice, follow the clock time but once the time change occurs you would be flexible with your child’s whole routine for the following week. So in essence, instead of moving the routine forward before the change, you are doing it after the change, but watching your child for cues. For the first few days you may only be able to move the nap forward but bedtime needs to stays early because your child is showing tired cues. Or it may be the other way around. Either way, you would move only as much as your child can handle. Once again, it will take about a week for them to adjust.