A Sleep Coach’s Guide to Preparing Kids for the Fall Time Change

School-aged girl sleeping in bed, hugging a soft toy

In 2022 daylight saving time (DTS) ends on Sunday, November 6, at 2 a.m. in North America (unless you're in Arizona or Hawaii). This means we gain an extra hour in bed, yippee! Ah, but you have children.

Most parents know that enjoying the extra hour of sleep when you have little ones who may not be so enthusiastic is not a given. Essentially, if you do nothing to prepare your kids, you won't get that extra hour in bed and your kids will be up extra early.

Not all is lost! Starting to change your child's sleep schedule about a week before the clocks roll back may help them get that extra hour's sleep. Let me share two different methods for adjusting your child's sleep schedule. They are similar and both have the same goal – more sleep! Choose the plan that will work for you and your child.

Don't worry too much if you're unable to make the full adjustment before the clocks fall back. Life gets in the way, and you need to be in certain places at certain times. Just do your best before the clocks change and continue to shift after.

Fall Time Change Sleep Tips: Plan 1 

Energetic toddler leaping into bed with her mom and dadEnergetic toddler leaping into bed with her mom and dad

With this plan, you’ll shift your child's sleep by 10 minutes each night for the week before daylight saving time ends. This means you'll put your child to bed 10 minutes later each night (and hopefully start your day 10 minutes later each morning, but more about that a little later.) At the end of the week, your child should be going to bed an hour later so that, when the clocks fall back, their bedtime is back on track.

Let me show you how. If your child currently goes to bed at 7 p.m., this fall time change sleep schedule adjustment will play out as follows:

  • Monday – 7:10 p.m. bedtime
  • Tuesday – 7:20 p.m. bedtime
  • Wednesday – 7:30 p.m. bedtime
  • Thursday – 7:40 p.m. bedtime
  • Friday – 7:50 p.m. bedtime
  • Saturday – 8:00 p.m. bedtime
  • Sunday (the clocks go back an hour on Saturday night) – 7:00 p.m. bedtime!

Shifting by 10 minutes each night is perfect for children who are more laid back and easygoing. If your child struggles a little more with change or has an intense personality, the second plan may work better for you.

Fall Time Change Sleep Tips: Plan 2 

Smiling mother and daughter snuggling together in bedSmiling mother and daughter snuggling together in bed

This similar plan is similar in logic, but the execution is a little subtler. With this approach, you’ll move bedtime by 15 minutes every other night for the week before the clocks go back. This means that, if your child currently goes to bed at 7 p.m., bedtime adjustments will go like this:

  • Monday – 7:15 p.m. bedtime
  • Tuesday – 7:15 p.m. bedtime
  • Wednesday – 7:30 p.m. bedtime
  • Thursday – 7:30 p.m. bedtime
  • Friday – 7:45 p.m. bedtime
  • Saturday – 7:45 p.m. bedtime
  • Sunday (the clocks go back an hour on Saturday night) – 7:00 p.m. bedtime!

What About Mornings and Naps?  

Father gently waking his daughter in the morningFather gently waking his daughter in the morning

Great question! It may take a little while for your child’s awake time in the morning to catch up. In fact, it can take up to 3 weeks for the change to fully take effect.

To help ease the morning wake-up transition, you'll need to shift your acceptable wake-up time by the time bedtime the night before was shifted. It’s simple. If your acceptable wake-up time in the morning is 7 a.m., then when your child shifts to a 7:10 p.m. bedtime, the new acceptable wake-up time will be 7:10 a.m.

If your child sleeps 10 minutes later, great! If not, try to keep your child in the darkened bedroom until the new acceptable awake time. You can go into the room, feed, play, etc., as long as you keep the room a little darker and still in nighttime mode. When it is your acceptable wake-up time (or as near to it as you can get), open the curtains, etc. Let light be the cue for getting up, leaving the bedroom and starting the day. Getting natural sunlight in the morning helps boost melatonin production in the body.

If possible, shift the nap schedule at the same pace. This will mean you only stretch your child's bedtime by 10–15 minutes at any given time. You can gradually shift the naps if your child has a very intense or shy sleep personality.

It's not always possible to move the naps at the same pace. Daycare and other daily commitments can make that impossible. Don't worry about making things perfect. Good enough is good enough. Things will fall into place once the clocks have fallen back.

If your child goes to bed a little later than you'd like, you can take advantage of the time change and do nothing. By doing nothing, your child will go to bed an hour earlier at night, but they will also wake an hour earlier in the morning! If you don't want to get up an hour earlier, you could shift their schedule by 30 minutes. Then they're to bed half an hour earlier and start the day just half an hour earlier. Surviving the fall time change with kids really is all about understanding your child’s sleep needs and getting their sleep schedule on track accordingly.

Rebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep CoachRebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep Coach

Rebecca Michi has been a children's sleep consultant for over a decade and has worked with hundreds of families all over the world. She loves supporting families as they work with their children to gently encourage easier sleep. Born and raised in England, she now lives in the USA with her husband, two teenagers and German Shepherd. Rebecca loves a good nap, fresh flowers and cups of tea. Learn more about The Michi Method for sleep at childrenssleepconsultant.com.