Daylight saving time: Managing baby and toddler sleep

In Australia, daylight saving time is observed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory. It begins at 2am on the first Sunday in October, when clocks are put forward one hour.

As this clock change approaches, parents often feel anxious about how it’s going to impact their baby or toddler’s sleep. With the initial loss of an hour of sleep, the transition can disrupt established routines and leave both parents and children feeling tired.

We’re here to alleviate that stress for you. In this article, we’ll explore practical tips and strategies to manage baby and toddler sleep when daylight saving time is just around the corner.

Managing baby and toddler sleep when daylight saving time approaches

There are two approaches to managing this clock change. One is supported by sleep science and is for those of you who are relaxed and flexible around your child’s sleep, and one is for the parents who feel that they need to do something proactive to minimise the impact. So, choose the approach that best suits you and your unique child’s temperament.

Approach 1: The power of natural circadian rhythms

The first approach is the easiest thing you can do to manage the clock change…absolutely nothing.

It makes no scientific sense to worry about it.

Our bodies are finely tuned to the daily cycle of light and dark, which regulates our sleep-wake patterns.

When daylight saving time begins, the external clock shifts, but our internal clocks remain aligned with the natural light-dark cycle. As an adult, you may also experience a mild form of ‘jet lag’ during this transition, but you probably won’t intentionally make changes to your own sleep patterns.

Your child’s body will naturally regulate itself in about 3-5 days. 

The changing daylight serves as a powerful cue for the body’s internal clock. As the days get longer, children may naturally wake up a bit earlier or become sleepier at an adjusted bedtime. Trusting in these natural cues can often result in a smoother transition without the need for abrupt changes.

The best way to think about this hour difference is to treat it like a mini form of jetlag. It’s all about resetting and regulating their circadian rhythm.

It’s all about light exposure

The following advice regarding light exposure is important for the whole family’s sleep long-term. Not just for daylight saving time.


Gradually increase the amount of natural light in your child’s room. Exposure to daylight helps reset the internal body clock. Open the curtains a little earlier each day to simulate the changing sunrise time.


Continue exposing your child to plenty of natural light during the day, getting outdoors first thing in the morning when possible (read 5 benefits of morning walks with your baby). Exposure to natural light in the morning helps to signal the body that it’s time to wake up. Natural sunlight inhibits melatonin production and increases alertness, helping us feel more awake and alert in the morning.


As the evenings get lighter, close the blinds/curtains about an hour before bedtime. The absence of light signals the pineal gland in the brain to start producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us feel drowsy and helps prepare the body for sleep.

Also, avoid exposure to blue lights from devices and TVs 1-2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens is particularly disruptive to the sleep-wake cycle.


A dark sleep environment is essential for promoting restful sleep, so using blackout blinds can help. Even small amounts of light in the bedroom, such as from streetlights or electronic devices, can interfere with the quality of sleep.

Important: Observe your child’s cues, rather than the clock, and put them to bed for naps and nights when they’re showing signs of sleepiness.

There is already so much unnecessary stress surrounding baby and toddler sleep. Daylight saving time doesn’t have to be another one. Trusting in these natural rhythms, being patient during the transition, and providing a supportive sleep environment can usually lead to a seamless adjustment to the new time.

Approach 2: Planning and preparation

In addition to regulating their circadian rhythm through light exposure as above, the second approach requires a little preparation and some strategic steps:

  1. Gradual adjustments

Gradually shift your child’s sleep routine in the days leading up to the change. Move bedtime, wake-up time, and naps forward by 15 minutes every day until you reach the new time.

  1. Stick to their usual routine

Consistency provides comfort and predictability, helping your child feel more secure during the adjustment period.

  1. Make the bedroom sleep-friendly

Ensure your child’s sleep environment is conducive to restful slumber. Use blackout curtains to block out early morning sunlight, and maintain a comfortable room temperature. A dark, cool, and quiet room can encourage better sleep, regardless of the time change.

  1. Adjust meal and activity times

Sync meal and activity times with the new rhythm. If your child’s meals and activities are coordinated with their sleep routine, they’ll be more likely to adapt smoothly to the time change.

  1. Be patient and flexible

Remember that it may take a few days for your child’s body clock to fully adjust. Be patient and understanding during this transition period. If your child wakes up early, try to keep the room dark and quiet, encouraging them to fall back asleep.

  1. Offer comfort and soothing

Changes in routine can sometimes lead to increased fussiness or clinginess in babies and toddlers. Offer extra comfort, cuddles, and soothing techniques like gentle rocking or singing to help them feel secure and relaxed.

8. Flexibility is key

While a bit of flexibility is essential during the transition, it’s equally crucial for parents not to force their child’s sleep routine to conform too quickly to the new time. Rushing the process or forcing early bedtimes may lead to resistance and sleep disruptions. Instead, observe your child’s cues and adapt gradually.


Remember that every child is unique, and it’s normal for some to adjust more quickly than others. By following either of these approaches and remaining flexible and patient, you can minimise disruptions and stress.

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