Anything that disrupts the normal day/night (Circadian) rhythm can lead to sudden sleep problems…that includes moving the clocks for daylight saving time. Babies and toddlers are already prone to sleep ups and downs, so it’s kind of disruptive that twice a year we upset their sleep (as well as their poor parents’ sleep) when we spring forward or fall back for daylight saving time. Fortunately, a little preparation can really help to navigate this challenge! 

How to Transition Your Child’s Sleep Schedule for Daylight Saving Time 

Get a head start on daylight saving time. 

One way to make daylight saving time a little easier is to gradually shift your child’s bedtime over the few days before the day the clock changes. While adults may easily adjust to adding or losing an hour, kids do best when we nudge their schedules in baby steps. 

Gradually shift your dinnertime and bedtime routines days before daylight saving time.  

Here’s how it works: Every evening—for the four days before daylight saving time—shift dinner and bedtime 15 minutes earlier if in spring, later if in fall. (Four days tends to work well, but depending on your baby or toddler’s temperament, your child might only need two days.) 

Stick to your go-to sleep cues. 

Already having a bedtime routine in place—with strong, well practiced  sleep cues—will make this transition much easier! Every step in your bedtime routine—from brushing teeth, to reading books, doing “Bedtime Sweet-Talk,” to pressing “play” on some low, rumbly white noise—can help cue your child’s brain that it’s time for beddy-bye. Dimming your room lights by 50 to 75% an hour before bedtime (that includes turning off screens or putting a blue light filter on them!) also helps release melatonin (aka the blessed sleep hormone) to prep your little one’s brain for sleep. 

Daylight Saving Time: How to Fall Back With Kids 

Here’s an example for how to fall back with babies and toddlers during daylight saving time:

If your child’s bedtime is normally at 8pm, four days before daylight saving time, push it back 15 minutes to 8:15pm. Then, two days before daylight saving time, move it 15 minutes later to 8:30pm. The day of daylight saving time (Saturday), bedtime will be at 8:45pm. Sunday night, after you turn the clocks back, your kiddo will be back to the usual 8pm bedtime. And of course, as you’re delaying bedtime by 15 minutes, you’ll also want to schedule dinnertime for a little later, as well.  

While daylight saving time—and the sleep struggles it can bring—is something many parents dread, with a little bit of planning, the whole family can get the precious ZZZ’s they need!

Example "Fall Back" Schedule for an 8pm Bedtime:

Wednesday —> 8:00pm
Thursday —> 8:15pm
Friday —> 8:30pm
Saturday —> 8:45pm
**Clocks move back 1 hour**
Sunday —> 8:00pm

Daylight Saving Time: How to Spring Forward With Kids 

Here’s an example for how to spring forward with babies and toddlers during daylight saving time:

If your child’s bedtime is normally at 8pm, four days before daylight saving time, move bedtime 15 minutes earlier to 7:45pm. Then, two days before you change the clocks, shift it again to 7:30pm. The day of daylight saving time (Saturday) bedtime will be at 7:15pm. Sunday night, after the clock springs forward, your child will be back to an 8pm bedtime. As you inch bedtime earlier and earlier, you’ll also want to move dinnertime up 15 minutes each night too. 

Example "Spring Forward" Schedule for an 8pm Bedtime:

Wednesday —> 8:00pm
Thursday —> 7:45pm
Friday —> 7:30pm
Saturday —> 7:15pm
**Clocks move ahead 1 hour**
Sunday —> 8:00pm

What to Do If You Forgot to Prepare for Daylight Savings

It’s always best to slowly help your child adjust to a time change, but parents are human and sometimes these things really can sneak right up on you! If that’s the case, take your child for some quality outside time in the morning—and stay out and have fun as long as you can! Not only can bigger kids burn energy to help them sleep better in the evening, but exposure to morning sunlight—and keeping your home a bit darker the hour or two before bedtime—helps to reset everybody’s internal clock and gets them back on track. (This also helps reduce jet leg when traveling).

At the same time, stay consistent with your little one’s bedtime routine. Remember, every step in your kiddo’s normal nighty-night pattern—from brushing teeth, to reading books, to playing some sleep-inducing low, rumbly white noise—helps cue their brain that it’s time for sweet dreams.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.