Fall Back Preparedness Guide: Are you Ready to Fall Back?
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Updated November 2021:
School is in full swing, the crisp fall air seems to have settled in to stay, and the end of Daylight Saving Time is just around the corner. Parents everywhere are yearning for past fall backs where they’ve enjoyed that extra hour of sleep. Unfortunately, our children won’t get the memo that they can sleep an extra hour the morning of Sunday, November 7th. Short of leaving your littles with the grandparents and heading out of town for a week there’s no away to avoid the time change! If you already have an early riser on your hands you’re probably starting to panic right about now. Now, instead of your sweet littles waking themselves and you at 5am, it will be 4am! How will you cope? You can conquer the turmoil of fall back with kids… keep reading!
First, let’s review what the end of Daylight Saving Time means. On Sunday, November 7th, 2021 at 2am we will set our clocks back by 1 hour. What this means is that when you put your little to bed at their usual 7:30pm bedtime on Saturday, November 6th, instead of waking up at their usual wake-up time of 7am, 7am will be become 6am. So instead of sleeping 11.5 hours to 7am, they will have slept 11.5 hours already by 6am. Another way of thinking about it is that their body clock will feel like it’s 7am even though the actual clock will read 6am. If you’re already struggling with sleep you may be laughing at the prospect of your little sleeping for 11.5 hours at night. But hear me out anyway!
The reason that this is so difficult for some children and adults too, is that our bodies function on circadian rhythms. These rhythms follow the sunlight and can dictate our mood and behavior and also help to regulate our hormones. Hormones like melatonin (our sleepy hormone) and cortisol (our stress hormone) can be major culprits in undermining our plans to sleep at certain times. Try to fall asleep before melatonin is being secreted (response to changing our clocks during spring ahead) and you may be hard pressed to find any shut-eye. Try to fall asleep once melatonin is tapering and cortisol is rising (the issue when trying to go to bed later than usual during “fall back”) and your mind and body may have difficulty settling into slumber.
HOW TO DEAL:
During fall back there are several strategies you can choose from depending on how sleep is currently going for your family, the age of your littles, and your parenting style. Here’s a break down of each:
THE EARLY RISER APPROACH: If your child is already waking early (before 6am), is less than 6 months old, or isn’t the most flexible sleeper (has trouble navigating minor schedule changes liked missed naps or later bedtime) you’ll want to consider this approach. Seven to ten days prior to the time change you’ll want to start to slowly shift things later. For example if bedtime is usually 7pm and wake time is usually 6am, the Sunday before the time change make bedtime 7:15am and wake time 6:15am. A few days later shift things forward again to 7:30pm for bedtime and 6:30am for wake time. Make sure you also shift meals and naps forward! Continue this until the night before the time change when you put your child to bed at 8pm. Now you can change the clocks before you go to bed so that in the morning your little should wake at 6am instead of 5am!
The early riser approach could be difficult if your child is already waking at the latest possible moment in the morning to arrive at school or daycare on time. If this is the case skip ahead to read the last strategy!
THE EASY SLEEPER APPROACH: If you have a great sleeper and your child is over 4-6 months of age consider just making the change all at once on Sunday, November 7th. Sunday night put your child to bed at their regular time of 7pm. This will feel like 8pm to their body clock especially if they woke an hour earlier than usual that morning. But, because you are asking your child to go to bed later (and not earlier like during the start of Daylight Saving Time in March) they shouldn’t have any trouble falling asleep (unless they are overtired). They may wake up as much as an hour earlier in the morning for a few days to a week as their body clocks adjust so stay consistent with bedtime and use an “okay to wake clock” to help with the mornings if you don’t already.
This approach may not work if your child is already on the cusp of being overtired. Sometimes when we put our kids to bed later (7pm will feel like 8pm to their bodies), instead of waking up later in the morning, they actually wake up earlier! In addition, if they are already overtired and you try to put them to bed an hour later, that cortisol hormone could hamper your plans and turn bedtime into crazy time. So, if you’re going to utilize this approach, try extra hard to make sure your littles are well rested in the week leading up to the time change! If you’re at all worried you can also do this method in two stages. Sunday night put them to bed at 6:30pm (will feel like 7:30pm to their bodies) and then Monday night fully transition back to your original 7pm bedtime.
ONE MORE STRATEGY: If your child is already waking close to the latest possible time to make it to school or daycare on time, or is a somewhat flexible sleeper, or you’re reading this 2-3 days before the actual time change, try shifting their schedule forward 1-3 days before the end of Daylight Saving Time. On Friday night put your child to bed 20-30 minutes later than usual, shift their naps if applicable the following day, Saturday. Saturday night put your child to bed 20-30 min later again and by Sunday morning you’ll be at the correct time. This method could still result in needing a few days to a week to fully adjust. If your child doesn’t have daycare or school on Fridays then you could always start Thursday night too. You can cater this method to work for your schedule.
Try to remember that any change is hard but that you can get through this! If the last few years have proven anything, it's that parents can do hard things! Take your littles outside to play especially in the late morning and late afternoon hours to allow the sunlight to help re-adjust their (and your) circadian rhythms (body clocks) to the new time. Use an “okay to wake” clock to help them to remember to stay in bed until their desired wake time. If you feel like your littles are starting to become overtired after the time change then implement an earlier bedtime to help compensate for missed sleep. The time between bedtime and midnight is the most restorative time for sleep so earlier bedtimes when overtired are highly effective in refilling your child’s sleep tank! Remember that with any change, consistency and patience are your parental bffs (best friends forever). And one last thing… if you need any help, you know where to find me!