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We have continued to relish in Simon's amazing sleep habits these past few months since working with you.
He is now 8-months-old and since the time change a week ago, things have gone haywire.
We kept his 6:45 pm bedtime the same so that it effectively got bumped one hour later. But now he is waking up at 4:15 am every day!
Should we keep his bedtime the same and let him cry until 5:30 or 6 am every day or move his bedtime around?
I've gotten messages like this from many clients this week. So if you are in a similar situation, take heart. You are not alone! Whoever invented daylight savings time definitely didn't have small children.
Time changes are really, really hard on little ones. And not great even for us big ones. My five-year-old was up very early for 5 days in a row before finally adjusting, and I feel like I'm still tired from the adjustment, or perhaps those early wakings. (Here in Mexico, we switched a week before the United States.)
And if your children stayed up even later on Saturday night due to the excitement of Halloween, it's likely that the early wakings are even worse.
When children are overtired, their bodies produce a stress hormone, cortisol, that makes it harder for them to fall asleep. This is why my five-year-old jaguar was bouncing around like a crazy person on Halloween night, even before eating any sugar, and needed a lot of "encouragement" (threats) to go to bed.
Overtiredness and cortisol also make it more likely that your child will wake up during the night, and also wake up too early in the morning. This is why little Simon woke up at 4:15 am! Even without the time change, this would have only 5:15 am, much earlier than his regular bedtime.
When children go to bed too late, they sleep less. Counterintuitive but true.
In Simon's case, I suggested that his mother ease off on the new bedtime and go back almost to his old, pre-time-change bedtime. And then gradually move it 10 or 15 minutes later each night.
The reason it didn't work for her, even after a week, to just move his bedtime an hour later (and hope for one-hour later wakings as a result) is that Ali most likely didn't move everything in his schedule.
In order to keep him on the "old time," she would have needed to shift everything, including naps and mealtimes, accordingly. It sounds like a great plan but in actuality, it's not easy to maintain daylight savings time for your child when the rest of your life has transitioned to standard time. But it's worth a try for the highly organized parents among us!
If your little one is having early wakings or night wakings as a result of the time change, ease off the time change for a day or two. Go back to the "old" time and do a super early bedtime for a couple of nights. Once your child is waking up at a more reasonable time again, gradually start shifting her bedtime later again. One four-month-old I am working with right now couldn't even tolerate 10-minute changes each day. Her dads had to shift to just five minutes every other day. It's hard to go so slowly... but 4:30 am wakes are even harder.
As for naps... if your baby is waking up super early, he will have trouble making it to a 9 am (two- and three-times a day nappers) or 12 pm (once a day nappers) naptime. If you are reverting back to "the old time," try to keep him up until at least the 8:30 am (old time) first nap or 11:30 am middle of the day nap. A too-early naptime can make things even harder -- if your child naps at 7 am, the second nap is likely going to be super early as well, leading to a very long stretch between the last nap and bedtime, leading to, you guessed it, more overtiredness.
But if he only takes a short nap because you kept him up until the appropriate nap time and then he was wildly overtired? Try to leave him in the crib for at least 90 minutes (of total crib time, not necessarily sleep time). Often times, children can learn to fall back to sleep if you leave them long enough.
I'm happy to report that on day 5 of our new time zone, Amelie woke up after 6 am, and the next two days, she woke up after 7 am! Woot. And after only one day of the earlier bedtime, little Simon woke up at 4:20 but then went back to sleep until 5. So that's progress too.
If you need help getting your child to give up those painfully early wakings, set up a free chat with me. Your family deserves great rest! Let me help.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.