It’s Magic! Using the ‘Spring Ahead’ transition to fix early waking


Using the Spring Daylight Savings Time 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 can cause your baby or toddler 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:

If your child wakes too early but is getting enough sleep overall:

Do not do any adjustments for the time change. Simply put your child down an hour later for bedtime and naps the Sunday after the time change. Here's an example of how it will work:


Imagine that your child sleeps from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM (10 hours of overnight sleep is perfectly normal for a 2-year-old)

  • On the Sunday after the time change your child’s biological clock will be promoting sleep from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM by the clock.

  • Do not wake your child in the morning.

  • Put your child down for his/her nap(s) one hour later. Remember this will be the same time as normal in your child's body.

  • At bedtime put your child one hour later than normal by the clock. 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. A tiny bit of light in the morning can 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.

  • Keep putting your child down one hour later by the clock for naps and bedtime and the later wake time should stick.

If your child is getting enough sleep at night, then you’re done! Enjoy those later mornings!


If your child wakes too early and is not getting enough sleep at night on average:

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 move nap time and bedtime an hour later on the Sunday after the time change. On subsequent days, slowly move bedtime earlier in 10-15-minute increments every two days until your child is getting enough sleep. 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. Here's an example of how this works:


Let’s imagine that your child sleeps from 7:00 PM until 5:00 AM before the time change, but based on your child's demeanor and age, you think that your child needs 10.5 hours of sleep on average.

  • On the Sunday after the time change your child’s biological clock will be promoting sleep from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM by the clock.

  • Do not wake your child in the morning.

  • Put your child down for his/her nap(s) one hour later. Remember this will be the same time as normal in your child's body.

  • At bedtime put your child one hour later than normal by the clock. 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.

  • On Monday, put your child down at 7:45 PM (15 minutes earlier than the night before). If wake time doesn’t shift earlier then go on to the next step.

  • If wake time does shift earlier, then move bedtime back to 8:00 PM and keep it there. Your child may be getting enough sleep at night and moving bedtime earlier may just lead to an earlier wake time.

  • On Tuesday, put your child down at 7:45. If wake time doesn’t shift earlier then go on to the next step.

  • If wake time does shift earlier, then move bedtime back to 8:00 PM and keep it there. Your child may be getting enough sleep at night and moving bedtime earlier may just lead to an earlier wake time.

  • On Wednesday, put your child down at 7:30 (15 minutes earlier than the night before). If wake time doesn’t shift earlier then go on to the next step.

  • If wake time does shift earlier, then move bedtime back to 7:45 PM and keep it there. Your child may be getting enough sleep at night and moving bedtime earlier may just lead to an earlier wake time.

  • On Thursday, put your child down at 7:30. If wake time doesn’t shift earlier then go on to the next step.

  • If wake time does shift earlier, then move bedtime back to 7:45 PM and keep it there. Your child may be getting enough sleep at night and moving bedtime earlier may just lead to an earlier wake time.

  • On Friday, put your child down at 7:15 (15 minutes earlier than the night before).

  • If wake time does shift earlier, then move bedtime back to 7:30 PM and keep it there. Your child may be getting enough sleep at night and moving bedtime earlier may just lead to an earlier wake time.

In this scenario, your child only needs 10.5 hours of sleep, so you might see a somewhat earlier wake time on some mornings going forward – 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. It's also important to note that your child's wake time will not happen at the exact same time every day. A child who needs 10.5 h sleep on average may sleep for ~10.25 hours on some nights and 10.75 hours on other nights and that's perfectly normal. In this scenario, if you felt that 6:00 AM was the earliest wake time that you could accept, then you would need to maintain bedtime around 7:45 PM to achieve morning waking between 6:00 and 6:30 AM.


This is a very cautious approach, 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.