Yet again we are coming up to this time of year when the clocks are moved forward one hour which means one hour less to sleep. It is one of those things that parents dread, as changing times means changing children’s sleep schedules. Though, this time round it should be easier compared to the time change in autumn, especially for the parents of early-risers. Here are some tips on how to approach the spring forward.
Prepare in advance (best for parents who don’t have early-risers)
If you have a very sensitive child who gets very alert whenever there is a change to his schedule, then I’d advise you to change his schedule slowly. You may start the preparation either on Thursday (3 days before the time change) or start on Sunday, the day when the change clocks (but then you will have to remember to go according to the old time). Here is how you do it:
On the first day of your preparation, move the entire child’s schedule 15 minutes earlier. This means, waking him up 15 min earlier, moving his feeds and mealtimes 15 min earlier and putting him down for naps and bedtime 15 min earlier, i.e if he normally wakes up at 7am, then wake him up at 6:45am, if his bedtime is at 7pm, then put him down at 6:45pm. Work your way backwards, adjusting the entire schedule each day by 15 min. On the day of time change, or Wednesday if you started adjusting the schedule on the Sunday the clocks change, he will now be ready to start the day at the new 7am.
Go with the flow
With this method, you act as nothing has happened but… you will have to wake your child up at her usual wake-up time. So if she normally wakes up at 7am, then you’ll need to get her up at the new 7am! She and you will probably still be sleepy, but if you want to avoid bedtime battles and/or a super late bedtime then I’d suggest adjusting everything to the new time right away. Waking up one hour earlier means going to bed one hour earlier as per the old time. It only takes children a few days to adjust to the new time but it is crucial not to give in to the idea of a lie-in.
The method for the ‘early risers’
If your child already wakes up at a crazy early hour (any time before 6am) then you may try to leave your baby until 7am new time (although don’t let them go past that time if it happens) and then go according to the new time with your schedule. It may help to reset their internal clock but unfortunately it’s not guaranteed and you may find that after a few days they’ll go back to waking up at 5am.
Other things to remember
Whichever method you choose, here are some other things to remember when we switch to summer time:
- Make sure your children get lots of time outside where they’ll be exposed to natural light. This will help to reset their internal clock and circadian rhythms that regulate their sleep-wake cycle.
- Because the body reacts to light and darkness, it’s important that, once bedtime is approaching, you start to dim the lights and draw your curtains and blinds. Ideally, your child’s bedroom room needs to be really dark, so if you’re struggling to stop the light leaking in as the days get longer, so you might want to consider investing in blackout curtains (or make your own by hanging a blanket over the curtain pole!). This will help your child’s body to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin, which will help your child fall asleep easier, stay asleep throughout the night and (hopefully) wake up at a decent hour. Blackout curtains will also help to stop the early morning light waking them up at the crack of dawn.
- Always try and avoid screen time at least two hours before bed, as the light coming from devices such as iPads, mobile phones, TVs and computer screens all intervene with the production of melatonin.
- Try white noise; it’s a great tool for masking any noise that may wake your little one, including the birds singing at 4am!
- All of the ideas on how to deal with time change you can use for both your child and for yourself. Don’t forget, your body also needs to adjust to the new time, so take it all into account when preparing for daylight saving time change. Sleep well.
This blog was written by Boogie, a sleep consultant based just outside of Gloucestershire, who works with tired parents to help get everyone in the house sleeping better. You can find her at Sleep Dreams Baby Sleep Consulting.