How to Survive the “Fall Back” Time Change: Advice for parents with babies 

The end of Daylight Saving Time in Canada this year is November 1st. We go back to Standard Time.

During this time change, lots of people will enjoy an extra hour of sleep. Since most of us aren’t getting adequate sleep, we’ll catch up a little. But for those with babies, it usually means less sleep. We will be falling back one hour, so that if your little one normally wakes up at 6 AM, they will now be waking at 5 AM. Yuck.

Why babies don’t easily adjust

As parents, we are already making sure our babies get all the sleep they need. Their brains are programmed to sleep and wake at regular times, and they tend to be sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule. Putting them to bed an hour later, in hopes that they sleep later in the morning, usually backfires with babies. It makes them overtired which interferes with their sleep cycles, often causing night waking and earlier morning waking.

What to do

We can make the changes more gradually. And it’s best to plan ahead. 

I recommend starting at least four days before the time change, by October 28th. Shift the whole schedule 15 minutes later – bedtime, nap times, and meals too.

Our circadian rhythm is a complex physiological system. It’s naturally influenced by the light we see, the exercise we get, environmental stimuli we encounter, our temperature, and our diet. And the timing of all of these factors will influence the brain’s preparation for sleep.

Everyday, for four days, you will shift your baby’s schedule another 15 minutes later. By November 1st, your baby will be adjusted to the new time.

Usually older kids adjust more easily, so most of them won’t need a gradual bedtime shift.

Use the light

Remember to make sure that your child’s bedroom is really dark, so that morning light is not perpetuating early waking. Exposing them to bright light in the late afternoon can help them to stay awake longer and helps to shift their internal clocks.

Hopefully there will soon be an end to these disruptive time changes, but in the meantime, we know they’re coming. We can make a plan and ease our babies into it, so we can all get more sleep.