Springing Forward into Longer Days

The Beginning of Daylight Saving

The start of Daylight Saving time may be one of my favorite times of year. There is so much excitement in the spring, with the promise of longer days, warmer weather and the eventual slow down into sweet summertime, after a busy spring season. 

Everytime we approach a time change, I inevitably get an influx of questions about sleep schedules and how the time change will affect those. As we move into Daylight Saving Time this next week, parents want to know what steps they can take before and after the time change to make it a smooth transition for everyone in the home.

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. What is a normal wake time? For most babies and children, it is anywhere between 6 and 7:30 am. Older school-aged children may not wake until 8 or 8:30 am.  By knowing how much sleep your child needs at night, you have two options. You can plan over about a week ahead of the time change, to get your child’s internal clock adjusted to the new time before that clock actually shifts. Or, you can plan to shift them “cold turkey” and they will adjust over a couple of weeks to the new time. 

How much sleep should our kids get? 

Newborns: 0 months to 3 months14 to 17 hours per 24 hours (including naps); no less than 11 hours and no more than 19 hours per 24 hours recommended
Infants: 4 months to 12 months12 to 15 hours per 24 hours (including naps); no less than 10 hours and no more than 18 hours per 24 hours recommended
Children (toddlers): 1 to 2 years of age11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps); no less than 9 hours and no more than 16 hours per 24 hours recommended
Children (pre-schoolers): 3 to 5 years of age10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps); no less than 8 hours and no more than 14 hours per 24 hours recommended
Children (school-aged): 6 to 12 years of age9 to 11 hours per 24 hours; no less than 7 hours and no more than 12 hours per 24 hours recommended
Teenagers: 13 to 18 years of age8 to 10 hours per 24 hours; no less than 7 hours and no more than 11 hours per 24 hours recommended

The Details

Now you know how much sleep your child needs and what their normal wake time is (or should be). You also know what their bedtime is (or should be, based on the sleep needs). What’s next? If you are a parent seeking a gradual approach, start shifting your child’s bedtime earlier by 10-20 min each night over a 3-7 day period.  Their new bedtime right before the time change will end up being an hour earlier than their normal bedtime, just before the clocks spring forward one hour.

As you shift bedtime each day, if possible, plan to start your day that much earlier the following day, until their wake-up time is an hour earlier than normal, just before the time changes. If you have an infant or toddler who is especially sensitive to changes in their wake windows, you can shift naps in the same way. This may be hard if your child is in childcare but most facilities are accommodating, once the parents explain the reasoning behind the changes. 


All of this sounds great but what if your child did not respond to the slow transition? The night before the time change, put your child to bed at the regular time. You can set your alarm to get your child up the following day and hour earlier but do your best to keep your baby or child in their sleep space until at least 6 am. If you need to go in and reassure them that it is not wake-up time yet, that is perfectly fine.

Once you do get your child up for the day, do your best to get some early morning sunlight exposure in as soon as possible. Early morning sunlight exposure is one of the best ways to set or reset our circadian rhythms and internal clocks. Afternoon and evening sunlight exposure are also helpful as well.  

Other Tips

Some children who are especially sensitive to light changes may benefit from the use of blackout curtains. We use these year-round in our bedrooms at home but they are especially helpful during a time change.

Continue to be consistent with a soothing bedtime routine. Children thrive on routines and offering a very predictable routine every night helps their brains and bodies prepare for sleep, especially during times of transition.

Do What’s Best for Your Family

Every family and child is different in terms of personalities and what’s important to them. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The younger children who are still napping typically have the hardest time with this transition. Do whatever you feel is best for your family and either way, everyone will transition over a couple of weeks. Like with any change, a little patience and grace with yourself and your children goes a long way. Hope everyone is looking forward to what might be the last Spring Forward!

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