Beware! On Sunday we Fall back to Standard Time

Child winding back clock

(How to Deal with the Fall Time Change and Its Impact on Bed and Wake Times)

On Sunday we will “fall back” one hour to standard time. That means that if your child now awakens at 6:00 AM he’s going to be ready to start his day at 5:00 AM.  That’s because his body does not shift as quickly as we can switch the clock.  This change in time is also going to play havoc with bedtime.  If your child typically goes to sleep at 8:00 PM, the clock on the wall will now say it’s 7:00 PM when his brain tells him, don’t try to fool me –I’m ready for sleep!   If you wait to put him to bed until the clock says 8:00 PM, his window for sleep will have been missed.  Odds are to stay awake he’ll get a second wind and then find it difficult to fall asleep.  

Instead of turning your routine that has been working, into a wrestling match, you can make the “fall back” in time help you.  If your child has been needing more sleep this is a GREAT time to move his bedtime earlier.  Now instead of waiting for 8:00 PM, put him down at 7:00. That’s where his body clock is presently set.  He’ll fall asleep easily.  He also needs more sleep during this time of the year, when nights are long and this way he can get it. 

If 7:00 PM is not workable for your family, you can go cold turkey and keep it at 8:00 PM.  Simply expect that your child is going to need more assistance winding down, because he is past his window for sleep. It will take one to three weeks for his body to adjust.  If you know your child’s body clock shifts slowly try aiming for 7:15 – 7:30 on the new standard time.  When that’s going well,  shift to 7:45 – 8:00 PM standard time.  The shift will again take several days or even weeks, but you’ll get there. 

Morning wake times are often more of an issue than bedtimes when it comes to “fall back.”  The little morning lark is awake at 5:00 AM no matter how dark it is outside.  Treat that early awakening like it was midnight.  Inform your go getter that it’s not time to “get up” and instead he needs to try to go back to sleep.  It can take weeks – as in three to six weeks, but if you hold firm, - no electronics, lights or food until 6:00, - gradually his body clock will move to the later wake time.  In the meantime know that if his bedtime is the “new” 8:00 but he’s continued to wake at the “old” 6:00 AM – which is now 5:00 AM he’s going to become sleep deprived and crabby.  Be patient.  Your routine is working.  He just needs time for his body clock to match the one on the wall.  Fortunately “falling back” an hour is typically much easier on everyone than “springing ahead.”  But we’ll deal with that in March! 

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