Skip to content

Daylight Savings: Fall Back and Your Baby’s Sleep

Posted on . Last updated .

A headshot of cara-dumaplin.jpg
Article by:

Cara Dumaplin

mom looking at baby wondering why she is up so early after daylight savings

It's that time again: time to turn back our clocks an hour. Why is this "Fall Back" so tricky for babies? Well, when it feels like bedtime to your little one, they still have another hour to stay awake; and in the morning, when it feels like it's time to wake up, they still have another hour they're supposed to be sleeping. But, don't panic: Let me show you how to shift your baby or toddler's sleep schedule for the end of daylight savings.

How do I adjust my baby or toddler's schedule for the time change?

For little ones 5 months to 5 years, here are 3 options to help you adjust smoothly and prevent early morning wakings:

Have a little one 0-4 months? Read about how to adjust your new baby’s schedule here.

Option 1: The week prior to the time change, start your morning 10 minutes later each day. 

The Tuesday before the time change, start your morning 10 minutes later than on Monday. Each day that week, shift another 10 minutes later. Wake windows and nap lengths can stay the same. This truly just shifts your entire day 10 minutes later on the clock.

Example of 3 nap schedule:

Text version of Gradual “Fall Back” Plan for a 3-Nap Schedule table
Current "Typical" Schedule Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday After Clock Change
Wake 6:00 am 6:10 am* 6:20 am* 6:30 am* 6:40 am* 6:50 am* 6:00 am*
Wake Window 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours
Nap 1 8:00–9:30 am 8:10–9:40 am 8:20–9:50 am 8:30–10:00 am 8:40–10:10 am 8:50–10:20 am 8:00–9:30 am
Wake Window 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours
Nap 2 12:00–1:30 pm 12:10–1:40 pm 12:20–1:50 pm 12:30–2:00 pm 12:40–2:10 pm 12:50–2:20 pm 12:00–1:30 pm
Wake Window 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours
Nap 3 4:00–4:30 pm 4:10–4:40 pm 4:20–4:50 pm 4:30–5:00 pm 4:40–5:10 pm 4:50–5:20 pm 4:00–4:30 pm
Wake Window 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours 2.5 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 7:10 pm 7:20 pm 7:30 pm 7:40 pm 7:50 pm 7:00 pm

Example of 2 nap schedule:

Text version of Gradual “Fall Back” Plan for a 2-Nap Schedule table
Current "Typical" Schedule Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday After Clock Change
Wake 6:30 am 6:40 am* 6:50 am* 7:00 am* 7:10 am* 7:20 am* 6:30 am*
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours
Nap 1 9:30–11:00 am 9:40–11:10 am 9:50–11:20 am 10:00–11:30 am 10:10–11:40 am 10:20–11:50 am 9:30–11:00 am
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours 3 hours
Nap 2 2:00–3:30 pm 2:10–3:40 pm 2:20–3:50 pm 2:30–4:00 pm 2:40–4:10 pm 2:50–4:20 pm 2:00–3:30 pm
Wake Window 3.5 hours 3.5 hours 3.5 hours 3.5 hours 3.5 hours 3.5 hours 3.5 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 7:10 pm 7:20 pm 7:30 pm 7:40 pm 7:50 pm 7:00 pm

Example of 1 nap schedule:

Text version of Gradual “Fall Back” Plan for a 1-Nap Schedule table
Current "Typical" Schedule Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday After Clock Change
Wake 6:30 am 6:40 am* 6:50 am* 7:00 am* 7:10 am* 7:20 am* 6:30 am*
Wake Window 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours
Nap 12:00–2:30 pm 12:10–2:40 pm 12:20–2:50 pm 12:30–3:00 pm 12:40–3:10 pm 12:50–3:20 pm 12:00–2:30 pm
Wake Window 4.5 hours 4.5 hours 4.5 hours 4.5 hours 4.5 hours 4.5 hours 4.5 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 7:10 pm 7:20 pm 7:30 pm 7:40 pm 7:50 pm 7:00 pm

*If you start to adjust your schedule this way and your baby won’t sleep until the wake time listed above, just hold your baby in their dark room. When your baby reaches the designated wake time, turn on all the lights, open the curtains, change them out of jammies, offer your morning feeding, and start your day.

I understand your nap times may vary daily. This is SO normal. Remember the schedules above are just examples.

Simply keep these goals in mind:

  • Hold firm to starting your morning 10 minutes later on the clock each day.

  • Maintain your normal wake windows.

  • Bedtime should naturally shift about 10 minutes later on the clock each day.

Example of Toddler Schedule with Nap and/or Quiet Time:

Text version of Gradual “Fall Back” Plan for a Toddler Schedule table
Current “Typical” Schedule Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday After Clock Change
Wake 6:30 am 6:40 am* 6:50 am* 7:00 am* 7:10 am* 7:20 am* 6:30 am*
Wake Window 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours 6 hours
Nap/ Quiet Time 12:30– 1:45 pm 12:40- 1:55 pm 12:50- 2:05 pm 1:00- 2:15 pm 1:10-2:25 pm 1:20-2:35 pm 12:30– 1:45 pm
Wake Window 5.25 hours 5.25 hours 5.25 hours 5.25 hours 5.25 hours 5.25 hours 5.25 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 7:10 pm 7:20 pm 7:30 pm 7:40 pm 7:50 pm 7:00 pm

*If you start to adjust your schedule this way and your toddler won’t sleep until the wake time listed above, maintain the sleep environment (e.g. keep sound machine on and room dark with your OK-to-Wake clock showing that it’s still sleep time). The goal is to keep your toddler in bed as close to the start of day time as possible. Even a little bit of light or noise can make it more difficult to get back to sleep during those early morning hours. 

Keep these goals in mind:

  • Hold firm to starting your morning 10 minutes later on the clock each day.

  • With a 3-5 year old, we’re likely able to follow a set nap time or quiet time so the start of nap or quiet time will shift 10 minutes later on the clock each day, even if your child doesn't sleep until the goal wake-up time. 

  • By making the above adjustments, bedtime should naturally shift about 10 minutes later on the clock each day.

Option 2: The weekend of the time change, expand each wake window by 5-15 minutes.

For the weekend of the time change, help your baby stay awake just a little bit longer before putting them down for each nap. We’re not trying to push your baby to be overtired, which can actually result in poor naps, rough nights, or early morning wakings. Instead, we just want to add an extra 5-15 minutes to each wake window.

Let’s look at an example:

This baby normally has wake windows between 3 hours and 3 hours 30 minutes. For just this weekend, we’re going to aim for wake windows between 3 hours 10 minutes and 3 hours 40 minutes.

Text version of Weekend “Fall Back” Plan for a 2-Nap Schedule table
"Typical" Schedule Saturday Sunday Monday (resume "typical" schedule)
Wake 6:30 am 6:30 am 6:00 am (new time) 6:30 am
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 10 minutes 3 hours 10 minutes 3 hours
Nap 1 9:30–11:00 am 9:40–11:10 am 9:10–10:40 am (new time) 9:30–11:00 am
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 10 minutes 3 hours 10 minutes 3 hours
Nap 2 2:00–3:30 pm 2:20–3:50 pm 1:50–3:20 pm (new time) 2:00–3:30 pm
Wake Window 3.5 hours 3 hours 40 minutes 3 hours 40 minutes 3.5 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 7:30 pm 7:00 pm (new time) 7:00 pm

Do you see how each wake window is just slightly longer than normal? This helps us to gradually work towards a later bedtime.

Expert tip: On Sunday, if your baby is exhausted and ready for bed at 6:30 p.m. (when bedtime is typically 7:00 p.m.), that’s okay! Go ahead and put your baby to bed. She will likely sleep later than if you push her to be overtired.

For Parents of Toddlers (ages 2, 3, and 4):

If you choose Option 2, add about 15 minutes of awake time before the nap/quiet time and 15 more minutes of awake time before bedtime the weekend of the time change (Saturday and Sunday). Then go back to normal wake windows the Monday after the time change. 

Option 3: Do nothing! Keep your baby’s routine exactly the same. 

(The clock time is the only thing changing.)

Some parents find that maintaining their baby’s normal schedule is easier. These families simply have a summer bedtime and a winter bedtime. It works for them!

Text version of Maintaining Schedule After “Fall Back” table
Saturday (before time change) Monday (resume "typical" schedule)
Wake 7:00 am 6:00 am (new time)
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours
Nap 1 10:10–11:30 am 9:00–10:30 am (new time)
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours
Nap 2 2:30–4:00 pm 1:30–3:00 pm (new time)
Wake Window 4 hours 4 hours
Bedtime 8:00 pm 7:00 pm (new time)

How do I help my newborn (0-4 months) adjust to the time change?

I want to encourage you to ignore the time change. Instead of trying to "adjust" your baby's schedule, simply continue to follow your baby's cues and wake windows. Over the course of a week or so, your baby will likely begin to adjust naturally. In my experience, trying to overextend wake windows at this age often results in overtired babies.

If, about a week after the time change, your baby's bedtime is too early, consider these strategies to help to shift that bedtime later:

- Try adding an extra cat nap in the evening.

- Help your baby to extend naps throughout the day by rocking, snuggling, or babywearing.

Do you have any more tips for helping my baby or toddler adjust to the time change?

1) Maintain a consistent bedtime routine.

A bedtime routine cues the brain that sleep is coming no matter what time the clock says. Keep in mind, a bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be the same activities in the same order every night. (If you have a toddler, I have a free printable bedtime routine chart for you!) 

2) Use light and darkness!

During awake time, expose your little one to daylight. Get out of the house! Go for a walk. Eat breakfast on the patio. Open your blinds. Turn on all the lights in your house. Exposure to light early in the day helps produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone, later that night. Light in the afternoon and evening can help with staying awake until bedtime.

When it’s time for the nap time or bedtime routine, you’ll want to dim those lights. Then, turn them off completely when you lay your baby down for sleep. Make sure to keep it pitch dark until it’s time to start your day. Even a small amount of light creeping in through the window can cause those tiny eyes to open.

Light and darkness truly does impact sleep for everyone, including adults!

Expert Tip: If your toddler is voicing a fear of the dark, add a red nightlight during sleep times. Red light is less likely to interfere with melatonin production.

3) Pile on the grace.

It takes time to adjust to a clock change. Try to go with the flow. Remember, she's a human, not a robot; he's a baby, not a clock. They will adjust in their own time. Getting your little one’s schedule back to “normal” can reasonably take up to two weeks.

Give your child some grace… and while you’re at it, go ahead and give yourself some too. You’ve got this!

4) Know help is available if you need it!

Please remember adjusting to the time change as we "fall back" after daylight savings is about shifting your baby or toddler’s sleep schedule and circadian rhythm. This can be tough!

If you've shifted your little one's schedule and are still experiencing sleep issues, please know I have age-specific classes to meet you right where you are: newborn (0-4 months), baby (5–24 months), and toddler (2-4 years). I’ll give you the step-by-step guidance you need to set your days and nights up for success! 

How can I fix my baby or toddler's sleep schedule after the time change?

Daylight savings has ended, and now, your baby is waking at the crack of dawn. Don't worry; you aren’t doomed to early mornings for the entire winter. Let’s talk about how to adjust your schedule after the time change. 

For babies 0-4 months:

Simply continue to follow your baby's cues and wake windows. Over the course of a week or so, your baby will likely begin to adjust naturally. In my experience, trying to overextend wake windows at this age often results in overtired babies.

If, about a week after the time change, your baby's bedtime is too early, consider these strategies to help to shift that bedtime later:

- Try adding an extra cat nap in the evening.

- Help your baby to extend naps throughout the day by rocking, snuggling, or babywearing.

Need more help with your baby's sleep? I have a class for you that will teach you gentle, age-appropriate strategies to lay a healthy sleep foundation. I want you to feel confident and empowered to navigate these first few months.

For babies 5–24 months: 

For the next two days, we want to slowly expand each wake window by 5-15 minutes. Help your baby go just a few extra minutes before you put him down for a nap. Now, we’re not trying to push your baby past his limit. We know that overtired babies can actually have a harder time with both napping and sleeping at night, so let’s just focus on trying to add an extra 5-15 minutes to each wake window as your baby can tolerate.

Here's an example:

This baby normally has 3-3.5 hour wake windows. For the next two days, we’re going to aim for wake windows between 3 hours 10 minutes and 3 hours 40 minutes. That’s just an extra 10 minutes of awake time before each nap. For most babies on two naps, that extra 10 minutes won’t result in an overtired baby.

Text version of After “Fall Back” Gradual Time Change Adjustment for a 2-Nap Schedule table
“Typical” Schedule Monday (after time change) Tuesday Wednesday (resume normal schedule)
Wake 6:30 am 5:30 am 6:00 am 6:30 am
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 10 min 3 hours 10 min 3 hours
Nap 1 9:30-11:00 am 8:40-10:10 am 9:10-10:40 am 9:30-11:00 am
Wake Window 3 hours 3 hours 10 min 3 hours 10 min 3 hours
Nap 2 2:00-3:30 pm 1:20-2:50 pm 1:50-3:20 pm 2:00-3:30 pm
Wake Window 3.5 hours 3 hours 40 min 3 hours 40 min 3.5 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 6:30 pm 7:00 pm 7:00 pm

Do you see how each wake window is just slightly longer than normal? This helps us to gradually work towards a later bedtime.

Expert tip: If the second day your baby is exhausted and ready for bed at 6:30 p.m. (when bedtime is typically 7:00 p.m.), that’s okay! Go ahead and put your baby to bed. They will likely sleep later than if you push them to be overtired. Continue to add just a few minutes to each wake window until you get back to your normal schedule.

Here are some additional daylight savings tips for your 5-24 month old:

  • If you are concerned about your baby waking early after daylight savings, consider holding them in their dark room until 6:00 am. Then, turn on all the lights, offer your morning feeding, and start your day.

  • Having a predictable daytime routine will help your baby adjust to the time change.

  • If bedtime is a struggle with your baby after the clocks fall back, having a consistent bedtime routine can be key to preparing your little one for bedtime.

For toddlers (2, 3, or 4 years old):

For a toddler who has a more set schedule, add an extra 15 minutes of awake time before the nap or quiet time and another 15 minutes of awake time before bedtime. This will allow us to gradually adjust back to our typical schedule without pushing our toddler past his limit.

Here is an example of what this could like: 

Text version of After “Fall Back” Gradual Time Change Schedule Adjustment for Toddlers table
“Typical” Schedule Monday (after time change) Tuesday Wednesday (resume normal schedule)
Wake 6:30 am 5:30 am 6:00 am 6:30 am
Wake Window 6 hours 6 hours 15 min 6 hours 15 min 6 hours
Nap/Quiet Time 12:30-1:45 pm 11:45 am -1:00 pm 12:15-1:30 pm 12:30-1:45 pm
Wake Window 5.25 hours 5.5 hours 5.5 hours 5.25 hours
Bedtime 7:00 pm 6:30 pm 7:00 pm 7:00 pm

Toddler Tip: If the second day, your toddler is exhausted and ready for bed at 6:30 p.m. (when bedtime is typically 7:00 p.m.), that’s okay! Go ahead and allow a bedtime at 6:30 p.m.. They will likely sleep later than if you push them to be overtired. Continue to add just a few minutes to each wake window until you get back to your normal schedule. 

Here are some additional daylight savings tips for toddlers:

What if we're struggling with early mornings weeks after the time change?

I have a blog for you all about the major culprits of early morning wakings and how to address them.

What if sleep is always hard?

You don’t have to struggle alone. I have classes that can help whether you have a newborn (0-4 months), a baby (5–24 months), or a toddler (2-4 years). If you’ve taken one of my classes, know that 1-on-1 help is available by adding a phone consult at any time.

Seasonal

Read All

Follow me on Instagram

Join our community of over 2,316,746 families @TakingCaraBabies.