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 (boohoo!). This however is good news for the parents of early risers as the 5am wake up might now become a more manageable 6am one.
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 to be affected 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. This might work especially well for sensitive children.
You can start about a week before the clock goes forward 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 can shift the timings.
The rest of your child’s schedule will need to shift as well, including meals 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 straight into it. On the day the time changes, wake your little one at the new time. So, if before your baby was waking up at 7am, wake them up at 7am on the new time. Adjust the whole routine accordingly. 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.
Or you can just not do anything. This works well for families with early risers, who might now get a 6am wake up instead of a 5am one. However, that isn’t necessarily a long-term solution as babies often revert back to early rising when their internal body clocks adjusts.
When we move the clocks forward, things are a bit trickier because of the extra light in the evening. Evenings are quite bright and bedtime routine can happen when it’s still sunny outside.
If that presents a problem for your child, 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 bedtime is coming.
You can 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! xxx