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Before Daylight Saving Time ended, my two year old would sleep until about 7:45 - 8:00 AM. This worked well for my wife's and mine morning schedule. However, since Daylight Saving Time ended a week ago (the "fall back" version) my toddler regularly awakens at 7:00 - 7:15 AM despite adjusting quite quickly to the proper going to sleep time.

This earlier waking time does not jive well with the morning schedule my wife and I had created, and usually makes me later getting out the door than I was previously. How can we help our toddler have the same sleep schedule (specifically sleep for the same number of hours) as before Daylight Saving Time ended?

Previously my toddler, after awaking, would usually lay in bed quite contented for some time, either talking to himself or quietly calling for one of his parents. Now after awaking he transitions directly to wanting to be out of bed and starts calling quite strongly for one of us to get him out of bed.

Since Daylight Saving Time ended, there was one night we kept our son up about an hour past his normal bed time (he didn't seem tired yet) and then another time when he didn't fall asleep for about an hour and a half after being put to bed (when normally he falls asleep pretty fast). Both these times I thought would "kickstart" his morning wake up time to be more like what it was before Daylight Saving Time ended, but he woke up at 7:00-7:15 just like before.

  • Not posting as an answer as I don't have experience with this, but do you think it could be the sunlight triggering this? If he's used to getting up when the sun comes through the window, he's still using that cue as for when it's time to get up maybe. – Becuzz Nov 14 '16 at 13:23
  • I've certainly considered this, and it's been a problem in the past. We have pretty heavy curtains for his room, but some light still makes it in. Even before DST ended though the day was already pretty bright by the time my kid would wake up. – NeutronStar Nov 14 '16 at 13:27
  • What's his bedtime (and, if different, fall-asleep time) since DST? – Acire Nov 14 '16 at 17:26
  • 8:00, same before and after. – NeutronStar Nov 14 '16 at 20:18
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    More reasons why we really need to get rid of this DST nonsense. – Erik Nov 15 '16 at 7:30
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I looked to see if I could find any research on how long it takes our circadian rhythm takes to adjust to DST and somewhat surprisingly the research I found suggests we never adjust.

Actually it's a little more complex than that: adults rapidly adjust to the end of DST, but not its onset. To make sense of this we have to understand that DST creates a disjunct between Social Time (i.e. what the clocks say) and Solar Time("real" time i.e. where the sun is in the sky). When DST arrives mentally we adjust ourselves to the new social time but our bodies stay on solar time.

From a toddlers perspective it's a little different. Two-year-olds have no concept of time beyond 'now', certainly they have no notion of social time. So its not that your toddler got up an hour later before, its that social time fooled you into thinking he did, from his point of view nothing has changed. Except that your behavior has changed, as you adjusted your sense of social time, and so to him seems like the time between waking, and having his parents attention has increased by an hour.

Seen like this its not all together surprising that he has become more insistent in demanding you attention.

However this leaves a situation where there are no ready answers, especially, as you discovered, our sleeping and waking times are determined by when we wake up, not when we go to sleep, so changing bed time has no effect, and we live in a world where electric light seriously messes with out circadian rhythm.

That said there are a couple of options:

  1. Give up the Canute like struggle against Solar time and adjust your sleep pattern rather than his. This is probably not the answer you are looking for, but it might be the easier path.

  2. Attempt to fake solar time. With my daughter the issue has been the opposite (getting her to bed at a reasonable time with the onset of DST). To tackle this we use blackout curtains (not just heavy normal curtains, and even double blackout curtains let in a lot of light) and a sunrise alarm clock to set an artificial sunrise/sunset time in the bedroom. I suspect this is more effective in the summer, than winter (since winter is already solar time) and will take some time to be effective, but its worth considering if you are not willing to make the adjustment your self.

Whatever you choose to do it will help to ignore clock time when thinking about this.

(As a side note: I take time-release ADHD meds, and interestingly, I realized that with the clock change, I spontaneously, and unconsciously, altered the time I take them by an hour so the onset remains matched to solar time/my circadian rhythms, while adjusting everything else to social time).

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