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It’s Magic! Using the ‘Spring Ahead’ Transition to Fix Early Waking

Is your child awake for the day at a time that most people would consider nighttime? If so, then the spring daylight saving time transition is the perfect time to get back on track. Fixing early waking is one of the hardest problems to solve because the circadian rhythm resets to light exposure each morning and just a little light in the morning will cause your baby to ‘lock in’ to an early wake time. Although the ‘spring ahead’ transition won’t do a thing to your child’s circadian rhythm, it will lead to a later wake time by the clock and if you are savvy about the transition you can make it stick! When we spring ahead 4:30 AM becomes 5:30 AM, so if you keep your child’s biological sleep schedule, then the clocks will do the hard work for you.

Here’s what you need to do:

o. Imagine that your child sleeps from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM.

  • This means on the Sunday after DST your child’s biological clock will be promoting sleep from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM by the clock.

  • On the Sunday after the ‘spring ahead’ transition do not wake your child in the morning. At bedtime put your child down at 8:00 PM. Remember 8:00 PM on Sunday is the same time as 7:00 PM on Saturday, so from your child’s perspective, nothing is different. It is a good idea to get out and get lots of sunshine and bright light in the evening before bed to really keep that later schedule locked in.

  • Keep all light out in the morning until your child’s wake time. Seriously. A tiny bit of light in the morning will reset your child’s clock to an earlier wake time. If you really want to keep the later wake time, then you must not let your child be exposed to light at an earlier hour.

o. If your child is getting enough sleep at night, then you’re done!

  • Check out our age-by-stage sleep chart to see what a normal duration of sleep is for your child’s age.

  • If your child is not getting enough sleep at night, then you can very slowly move bedtime earlier in 15-minute increments every two days until your child seems to max out on sleep duration. You may not know how much sleep your child really needs, so it’s essential that you make this change slowly in order to preserve that later wake time.

  • Let’s imagine that your child really needs 10.5 hours of sleep, so after the change you want to stretch out the night from 8:00 PM – 6:00 AM to 7:30 PM – 6:00 AM.

  • Keep it dim from 7:30 on each night

  • Put your child down at 7:45 on Monday, if wake time doesn’t shift earlier then

  • Put your child down at 7:45 on Tuesday, if wake time doesn’t shift earlier then

  • Put your child down at 7:30 on Wednesday, if wake time doesn’t shift earlier then

  • Put your child down at 7:30 on Thursday, if wake time doesn’t shift earlier then

  • Put your child down at 7:15 on Friday,

  • in this scenario, your child only needs 10.5 hours of sleep, so I might expect a somewhat earlier wake time on Saturday morning – don’t panic, keep your child in the dark until at least 6:00 AM and

  • Go back to the 7:30 PM bedtime on Saturday night

  • Is this a very cautious approach? Yes, but if you’ve been struggling with a child who wakes too early you know how hard this is to fix, so it’s completely worth taking it slowly to make it stick.

If your child already has a great sleep schedule and you want to keep it through the DST switch, then see our guides on how to manage the transition for babies and toddlers. If your child has other sleep problems, then check out our sleep basics and nap blogs for help. If you are feeling stuck and need more help with sleep, then check out our self-guided sleep class or book a consultation with us.