Help your child adjust when clocks go forward
When the clocks spring forward at the start of Daylight Savings Time, it means one hour less sleep for us (boo!!). This however is good news for the parents of early risers as they will be able to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning. 🙂
A time change of only one hour can affect a children’s circadian rhythms, similar to jet leg, so it’s expected for their sleep schedules to be effected as well.
When toddlers or older kids get off-schedule or their routines change, they can exhibit testing behaviours, like being moody, cranking or acting up. That is normal and will pass when their routine adjusts to the new time.
There are two main ways to adjust your child to the clock change.
If your child is more reliant on routine and sleep, start getting her ready slowly over a few days in anticipation of the time change.
You can start about a week before the clock goes forward (or even earlier if your child is very sensitive to change) by putting your child to bed a bit earlier every night until you’ve reached the desired time.
You can for example move the bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights or move it by 10 minutes every night for 6 nights. The more sensitive your child is, the slower you should shift the timings.
The rest of your child’s schedule will need to shift slightly later as well, including feedings and nap times.
Don’t worry if you forget to start that far in advance, you can always extend it for a few days after the time change.
If you’re lucky, and your child isn’t super sleep sensitive, you can just jump to the new times and wait for him to adjust. It may take a few days for your child to get used to it, but she will, eventually, adapt.
What can help with toddlers and older children is to tire them out. Plan your day with a lot of activity (particularly physical activity) and spend as much time in the fresh air as possible. That way they might be more reluctant to go to bead earlier.
When we move the clocks forward, things are a bit trickier because of the extra light in the evening.
That’s why you need to make the evenings darker than they naturally are, to trick the brain.
Daylight exposure is really important for our circadian rhythms (or ‘body clocks’), because it tells our brain whether it is time to release the hormone of sleep or the hormone of alertness. So when we move the clock forward in the spring, the evening become lighter and the sleep hormones get released until later.
What helps here is to close the curtains or blinds in the evening, half-hour or an hour before bedtime, to encourage a sense that bed time is coming.
You should also use room-darkening curtains or blinds in your child’s bedroom so that she can’t see how light it is outside in the evening.
Sleep well everyone!