How to help children with the Autumn clock change

Autumn clock change

At the end of October, the clocks will shift back an hour signaling the end of British Summer Time. Whilst an extra hour in bed sounds like a welcome rest, most parents will be more concerned with how their little one’s will adjust to the upset in routine. With ‘The Baby Sleep Experts’ step-by-step guide, you can help your little one navigate this disruption like a pro.

Most little ones typically wake between 6 and 7am so overnight the clock change means that 6am will become 5am and such an early start is certainly NOT welcome. Parents of early-risers may even be looking at a wake-up that starts with a 4 which is even more crazy…

So what is the best way to handle this tricky sleep hurdle? It partly depends on your child’s age and temperament but there is an approach that will suit all little ones. As their parents, you know them best so only you can decide which approach would be the right one for your family.

OPTION 1: DO NOTHING

Simply go to bed at the normal time on Saturday night and start your day in the normal way on Sunday and adjust all mealtimes and naps to the new time. You will have an extra hour to fill on Sunday and your little one may not be able to last out to bedtime so you could put them to bed slightly early.

OPTION 2: JUST GO FOR IT

For an older child (3yrs+) you may find that can simply stay up an hour later on Saturday night without any problems. If your child can manage this and goes to bed at say 8pm instead of 7pm and then sleeps their usual 11-12 hours they will wake at their normal time in the morning and off you go. Well done!

However, a whole hour is a lot to ask most little ones and you may find that this pushes them into becoming overtired at bedtime. The knock on effect of this is that they make wake rather early. To lesson the chance of this happening, you could make Saturday’s nap slightly later to try and balance out the extra hour. Even 15 or 30 minutes later could make the change more manageable for younger children. For little ones who don’t usually nap you could try a strategically placed car nap in the afternoon to try and keep them going the extra hour.

OPTION 3: SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE

Another easy to implement approach without asking your child to stay up an extra hour is to delay bedtime by 30mins. You could do this on Friday night and Saturday night and doing this may mean that your child is less likely to be really overtired than if they stayed awake the extra hour. The morning wake-up times will adjust over the following few days.

OPTION 4: SMALL STEPS

For babies and toddlers who aren’t at school, or are more sensitive sleepers with fixed sleep/wake times, a gradual adjustment spread over several days is likely to work best.

You would begin this on Wednesday night by putting your child to bed 15 minutes later than usual. Allow them to sleep in a little in the morning if they want to and push all meal and nap times back by 15 minutes on Thursday and then put them to bed 15 minutes later than the previous night (30mins later than normal bedtime). If you repeat this process on Friday, by Saturday you will be putting your child to bed a whole hour later ready for the clock change.

A staggered approach is the most manageable for all children. However for a child that falls asleep at different times every night this might be quite difficult to implement.

HELP THEM OUT

The clock change results in darker nights and lighter 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.

If your child uses a sleep/wake clock remember to reset this before they go to bed so that they get up at the corrected time.

Maintain a consistent 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 prepares your little one for sleep no matter what time the clock is reading.

If your child does wake up really early on Sunday morning, treat it as if it were a night wake up. Do not turn on the lights, use a quiet voice to tell them it is night time and encourage them to resettle back to sleep. If this fails, try to keep them calm and quiet and in the dark for as long as possible to allow their body clocks to adjust.

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.

If you need any further help please get in touch with me or head over to my Facebook or Instagram pages for regular sleep top advice.

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