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Spring forward: Adjusting your baby’s sleep for Daylight Saving Time

By Cradlewise Staff

It’s officially *that* time of the year. We’re all looking forward to brighter post-winter mornings and longer days. But Daylight Saving Time takes on a whole new meaning when you become a parent. 

Although it might seem like a seemingly small shift, it can throw off your little one’s entire schedule—from wake-up time and naps to meals and bedtime. Fortunately, there are some simple but effective ways to help make this transition easier for your little one (and yourself, too).

We consulted Rachel Mitchell, Certified Sleep Specialist and CEO of My Sweet Sleeper, on how Daylight Saving Time affects your baby’s sleep and how you can adjust their schedule for when we spring forward on March 13, 2022.

Spring forward vs falling back

Baby during falling back daylight saving time

You might wonder, why does shifting the clock by just one hour have such a monumental impact on my little one’s sleep?

Daylight Savings Time disrupts their circadian rhythm, which governs when they wake up or fall asleep. Babies and toddlers are much more sensitive to changes in time because their internal clocks are still under development

Did you know?
Springing forward and falling back one hour each year creates a dissonance in your tot’s understanding of time. This mismatch between your baby’s circadian rhythm and external clock timings affects their sleeping pattern.

The sleeping period is still the same; it’s just the clock timing that has changed.

But it also depends a lot on your baby’s unique sleep needs and how strong their circadian rhythm is.

According to Mitchell, Daylight Saving Time impacts each child’s sleep differently depending on their adaptability. “Generally, most babies will adjust to the time change within a week or so.”

How Daylight Saving Time affects your baby’s sleep

Any change that disturbs your baby’s internal clock or circadian rhythm can lead to sleep-related problems, which then affect their appetite and mood. 

Babies don't have a well-developed circadian rhythm

However, it’s important to note that Daylight Saving Time affects babies differently in the spring than in the fall.

Mitchell says, “When we spring forward, we have more sunlight later in the evening, which most of us find exciting, but it can affect the onset of melatonin and circadian rhythm. Because of this, some babies struggle to wind down and fall asleep at night.”

In the fall, “babies often start to or continue experiencing early risings since the time moves backward on the clock, whereas in the spring, it can actually help with early risings.”

How to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule

  • If your child is under one

According to Mitchell for babies under one, there usually isn’t a need to prepare in advance. You could just follow awake windows.

“Awake windows are the periods of time that your baby is awake in between naps and because sleep varies so much in the first year we recommend following awake windows rather than a by-the-clock schedule. Keep in mind that awake windows will vary for each child.”

Mother reading to her baby and toddler
  • If your child is one or up

You can help them prepare for this transition by gradually shifting their nap and bedtime earlier by about 10 to 15 minutes each day.

Ideally, you want to start this transition four days leading up to Daylight Saving Time. (But this is just a general guideline—the number of days a baby needs to adjust also depends on the baby’s temperament.)

Here is an example schedule for a baby who typically goes to bed at 8 p.m.:

Four days before March 13, 2022Push your baby’s bedtime to this time
March 97.45 pm
March 107.30 pm
March 117.15 pm
March 127.00 pm

The night before DST begins, your baby’s new bedtime will be 7 p.m., which will then become 8 p.m. on the evening of March 13th, when you forward your clock by an hour. Hooray! Your baby’s back to his or her original bedtime. Mission accomplished 🙌

Tips to prepare your baby 

Baby sleeping peacefully

Now you know when to start making small shifts in your babe’s schedule. However, it’s also important to remember that your baby must have a strong sleep foundation in order to set them up for solid zzzs.

  1. Stick with a consistent sleep routine: This is all the more important when Daylight Saving Time starts and ends because the change in the timing might abruptly disturb your little one’s schedule. You can also give your baby warm baths or read them a bedtime story before putting them to bed. It’s all about creating a powerful sleep signal. 
  1. Make your baby sleep in pitch-black darkness: Even dim night lights can disrupt your baby’s natural melatonin production. Since early mornings will be brighter now, get blackout blinds to ensure that their room isn’t too bright in the mornings.
  2. Adjust your Cradlewise’s settings. During periods of transition like Daylight Saving Time or regressions, try tweaking your smart crib setting to find what works best for your LO. For example, you could change the bounce intensity or how quickly the crib responds to sensitive movement to give baby some extra support and soothing. While our crib is “smart,” nothing can replace parental instincts. You know your child best.
  1. Get your little one that warm early-spring sunshine: Take your tot outdoors and make sure they get plenty of natural sunlight. This will help regulate their circadian rhythm and also make it easier for them to fall asleep at night.
  1. Be mindful of the lighting in your home before bed: Ensure that at least two hours leading up to your kiddo’s bedtime, they are not exposed to bright lighting in your home. Dim the lights near their room and in the hallway. It will help them sleep better.

The bottom line

Adjusting your baby to a new schedule can be hard on you, too. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. 

“Give yourself lots of grace and try not to schedule anything major like travel right after the time change,” says Mitchell. “Give yourselves all time to adjust and go to bed early the night before since you ‘lose’ an hour on the clock.” 😴

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