Getting Your Kids Back on Schedule When the Clocks “Fall Back”

fall leaves and a sunny background with a red alarm clock

It’s just a few weeks away now! Daylight Saving Time ends each year at 2am on the first Sunday of November, and the clocks will “fall back” one hour.

Remember before you had kids, when this night was cherished for bringing an extra hour of glorious and much-needed sleep? Most of our kids will not get the memo to sleep more than normal, and the result is very often a very, very early morning wake up.

White clock sits on orange, red, and yellow leaves with a card that says "fall back"Are there unicorn children who do sleep that extra hour? Sure! If you’re one of those lucky parents, try not to gloat to your friends who see their babies at 5 AM that Sunday morning.

Now, what’s a parent to do?! Fortunately for you, there are options for every parenting type.


Plan A- the “Plans Ahead” Parent

You know who you are. You probably also finish Christmas shopping in October and pick your kids clothes out for each day the night before. You’re reading this well ahead of the clocks falling back, to (duh) plan ahead. Most of us aspire to be more like you.

  1. Beginning at least 7-10 days before Daylight Saving Time ends, gradually shift your child’s sleep schedule forward so that on the day that the clocks “fall back,” your child will drop right back into their original schedule.
  2. Wait an extra 10 minutes in the morning to get your child out of bed or from their crib.
  3. Your child’s first (or only!) nap should begin 10 minutes later than normal.
  4. Push bedtime later by 10 minutes.
  5. Ideally, your child will wake 10 minutes later the next morning.
  6. Wait an extra 10 minutes to get them out of bed, again.
  7. Repeat and repeat for 6-10 days until your child is waking one hour later in the morning, napping one hour later, and heading to bed one hour later. He or she is ready to “fall back” one hour.

Plan B- the “Oops, Guess I’m Handling this On-the-Fly” Parent

This might be you if you’re reading this blog on Sunday morning after your child woke up extraordinarily early, you Googled “Why is my child up at 5am?” and found yourself here. Welcome and luckily, there is a plan for you, too!

  1. Your child wakes an hour early, but wait to get them from their crib until their normal morning start time. Yes, that could be an hour. Feel free to get them when they get upset- you just want to extend their “in-bed” time as long as possible.
  2. Then you have a choice:
    1. You can keep them awake until their regular morning nap time, cold turkey. Yes, this means their first wake time will be extra-long, and their nap may suffer for it. However, this will get you back on schedule quickly!
    2. You can adopt the same gradual strategy from above, expecting it to take you 7-10 days to shift you child’s schedule forward by one hour.
  3. Within a few days, most children adjust right back to their old schedule.

Plan C- the “Do Nothing and Hope for the Best” Parent

You don’t let schedule changes or curveballs ruffle your feathers. The unexpected rolls off your back, and you take life in stride. We could all stand to take a page from your book.

  1. Do nothing.

Really. By doing nothing, you simply move your entire day one hour earlier. This means early mornings for the kids during the winter, but it also means lots of kid-free downtime in the evenings as your children will be going to bed an hour earlier than they were all summer. There’s something to be said for adopting the laissez faire approach to the time change!

Bonus Tips and Tricks

  • If your children wake up early when the clocks “fall back,” embrace it and put a positive spin on the misery. Take the whole family out for breakfast at a 24-hour diner or restaurant, get some pancakes, pour a big cup of coffee, and start a new family tradition. Our family has celebrated “Daylight Savings Day” every year since our oldest was a baby!
  • Make sure your child’s bedroom windows have blackout curtains or effective window shades. The sun will rise an hour earlier, and that morning light is enough to rouse kids earlier than we want. Keeping their room nice and dark combats this!
  • For toddlers and older children having persistent early mornings, try an OK to Wake clock like this one. Lights indicate to your child when it is time to start the day, and paired with a morning reward, you can teach your child to begin their day at a mom and dad approved time!
  • Try not to stress if your child doesn’t respond well to a gradual approach to changing their sleep schedule. Some kids are sensitive to the time change. They may make a “Do Nothing” parent out of even the most prepared “Plan Ahead” types. That’s OK! Follow their cues.
  • If you get stuck or have other persistent sleep challenges, you’re not alone! Check here to learn more about why your child is waking and here to learn more about what to do about it.
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Mary Vaughn
Mary is an Army wife of 7 years, mother to three wild boys, and owner of a small business helping other moms as a sleep consultant and potty training coach (yes- it is a thing!) called Mother Together. She is originally from Gettysburg, PA, has an undergraduate degree in education from American University in Washington, DC, and taught middle school before following love into the adventure that is a military marriage. Mary proudly considers herself the millennial everymom: rocks the side part, overuses the laugh crying emoji, looks forward to a daily glass of wine, and will probably be buried in skinny jeans. Her hobbies and interests include exploring local businesses and restaurants, camping when the weather is just right, knitting, coffee, and casual amounts of moderate exercise to create balance to her love of cooking. Mary is perpetually seeking new binge-worthy shows and audiobooks, so feel free to connect and share your interests!