At the end of March, the clocks will shift forward an hour signalling the start of British Summer Time. I’m sure like most parents, you are not relishing the thought of ‘losing’ an hour of sleep especially if you are already feeling sleep deprived! The spring clock change can wreak havoc with your little one’s sleep schedule so try these four easy strategies to help you avoid problems…
Option 1: Changing bedtime in small steps
For babies and toddlers who aren’t at school or for more sensitive sleepers with fixed sleep/wake times, a gradual adjustment spread over several days is likely to work best.
By moving your little one’s bedtime routine a few minutes earlier each night in the week before the clocks change, you can gradually move them towards the new ‘correct’ bedtime. Four days before the clocks change, start by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day and waking them up 15 minutes earlier each day. So if they normally sleep 7:30pm-7am make the first shift to 7:15pm- 6:45am and so on. Doing this step-by-step is not as much as a shock to the system as it is when you abruptly expect your child to fall asleep an hour earlier after the time change.
TOP TIP: Don’t forget to adjust meal and nap times by the same amount as well.
Option 2: Go with the flow
Alternatively, you can do nothing and wait for your little one’s body to adjust to the new timings naturally. This will work better for an older child who doesn’t nap. In the days following daylight saving time, try to be more forgiving if your child is throwing extra temper tantrums and seems to be particularly frustrated or difficult in any way. Stay strong and things will settle down again in a few days!
Option 3: Use it to your advantage
If your little one currently wakes up at an uncivilised hour like 4-5am, the spring clock change can be a welcome relief. You will change your clocks but make no change to their schedule. Instead of sleeping 7pm-5am, they will now be sleeping 8pm-6am. This will not only mean longer in bed in the morning but it will also give you an extra hour of cuddle time in the evening.
Option 4: Split the difference
For younger toddlers who still nap another easy to implement approach without asking your child to go to bed an hour early is to make bedtime 30mins earlier. If your child normally goes to sleep at 7:30pm, on the Saturday night you would put him to bed at 7pm and then on Sunday night at 7:30pm (the old 6:30pm). The morning wake-up times will adjust over the following few days.
Other ways to help:
1. Blackout Blinds
The clock change results in lighter evenings and eventually mornings which can be a problem for some. Blackout blinds that can stick directly to the window are a very wise investment. Ideally the bedroom should be as dark in the morning as it is in the middle of the night. Any slight chink of light could be enough to wake your little one up.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body’s internal circadian clock. It increases in the evening as it becomes dark which helps induce sleep. If the extra hours of daylight in the evenings are a problem, blackout blinds in your little one’s room can help to make it feel like night time. You can also make sure lights are dimmed or curtains closed in the hour before bedtime and avoiding outdoor play and exposure to screens before bedtime.
2. Bedtime Routine
Try to maintain a consistent and calming bedtime routine. A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s simply repeating the same things in the same order every night. This simple pattern is a powerful signal for sleep and prepares your little one to settle down no matter what time the clock is reading.
If your child is waking up late and this is affecting the rest of their day, you might like to wake them up in the morning as this will help them adjust to the new timings.
3. Natural daylight
Natural daylight is one of the big influencers of circadian rhythm so spending time outdoors will help the body clock adjust more quickly. Get outside. Go for walks. Body clocks are also influenced by mealtimes and nap times so aim to have these according to the ‘new’ time on Sunday.
If you are worried about an earlier start than normal, consider going to bed early yourself the night before so the morning doesn’t feel so difficult when it arrives.
So there you have it, four options and some top tips for you to beat the spring clocks change in a couple of weeks.
Do let me know how you get on and what works best for you.