Don’t “Fall Back” into Poor Sleep Habits!


I know I’m not the only one noticing how much shorter our days are getting already. Daylight savings 2013 will end on November 3rd. Clocks are moved back one hour from 2 a.m. DST to 1 a.m.  For parents of early risers, the upcoming change can be nerve-racking. “He’s already waking up at 5:30 a.m. Does this mean he’s going to start waking up at 4:30 a.m. now?!”

Fortunately the answer is no. You are going to gradually shift his schedule to the new time, just like when you are traveling.

So what will it look like? You have a few options. One is to allow your child to wake up at his natural time on the morning of the 3rd. According to the clock, it will be an hour earlier than usual. If he usually wakes up at 6:30 a.m., he will likely awaken at 5:30 a.m. That’s fine. It will be short-lived! Try to keep things low key for 30 minutes until you are ready to start the day. Base the day’s routines (meals, naps, etc.) around the new clock time. If your son’s bedtime was 7:30 p.m., the clock will now read 6:30 p.m. Aim for good naps that day so he can make it to at least 7 p.m. (new time). You can gently push his bedtime back to 7:30 p.m. over the next few nights.

Alternatively, if going “cold turkey” doesn’t appeal, you can also approach the time change incrementally, starting NOW! Push naps, meals and bedtime back 15 minutes later each of the days leading up to the end of daylight savings. If his usual bedtime is 7:30 p.m., he can go to bed at 7:45 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. on October 31st, 8:15 p.m. on November 1st, and 8:30 p.m., on the 2nd. By the time daylight savings ends, he will already be adjusted – or at least well on his way.

Regardless of which approach you choose, stay consistent and don’t let him really start his day before 6 a.m. (new time). He’ll be adjusted within a week.

*If your child had too late of a bedtime before the time change, this is your chance to move it earlier without too much fuss.  The ideal bedtime for a child is between 7 and 8 pm.  So if your son’s bedtime was too late, don’t move it later; just put him to bed at the new time of 7 or 8pm.

Note: If your little guy seems plagued by early rising, it’s time to get to the bottom of it. Click here to read my earlier post about the common causes of early rising and how to address them.

(Includes information from Kim West’s Good Night Sleep Tight.)

Consolidating Naps: A Tricky Dance

Most toddlers are ready to transition from two naps to one around 15-18 months. That said, if your toddler’s naps are going well, leave them alone! But when things start to get funky on the nap front, it might be a sign that she is preparing to consolidate her naps. Your toddler is ready to transition to one nap when she:

·      Consistently gets 10-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night (if she’s not, work on improving her nighttime sleep before tackling naps)
·      Consistently takes longer and longer to fall asleep for her morning nap
·      Consistently takes shorter morning naps or sleeps too long in the morning then refuses her afternoon nap

If your toddler’s afternoon nap isn't going well, try shortening her morning nap – don't let her sleep longer than an hour. Maybe even 20-30 minutes. Think of the morning nap as a catnap to take the edge off, so she isn't overtired for the more important afternoon nap. Eventually she will drop the morning nap altogether. But catnaps can be a really good stopgap measure, buying her body a few more weeks/months to adjust.

When the time has truly come to kiss the morning nap goodbye, brace for a 7-10 day process. Gradually push her morning nap later – 11am for 2 days, 11:30am for a few days, then noon, etc. Don’t let the nap get stuck in the late morning. Your goal is for her nap to start between 12:30-1pm and last at least 2 hours.

Some children adapt quickly to an “after noon” naptime, while others really struggle. I found that keeping my toddler out of the house from 9-11am made a big difference. Keep her busy at the playground, library, or a friend’s house before bringing her home for lunch and then nap. Just don’t let her fall asleep in the stroller or car ride home!

If your sleepy toddler wakes up from her nap after only an hour, try to encourage her back to sleep using whatever method works best for her and you. Consistency is crucial here. If all else fails, you can always let her crash in the car or stroller so that she isn’t falling apart by 5pm.

Bear in mind: this is a significant transition that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It often leads to short-term sleep deprivation since toddlers typically go through a "two naps are two many but one is not enough" stage. During that time, put her to bed earlier than usual and be open to an occasional two-nap day if you sense she is getting over-tired.

(Some excerpts from The Good Night Sleep Tight Workbook ©2010 Kim West LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady ®)