The clocks going back at the end of this month can really throw your child’s sleeping out of kilter, especially if you have been struggling with their sleep, or have finally managed to start getting a solid night’s sleep from them. The clocks going back affects not only children’s sleep, but adults too, so it’s important that we give a little bit of time to the subject in advance, in an effort to avoid ongoing problems.
At this time of year parents ask what is the best way to deal with the time change? You can try one of three solutions. Pick the one that suits your child best.
You can immediately follow the time once the clock changes. If your baby is waking around 7am and going to bed around 7pm, it is suggested that the day the clock changes it will say 6am, but it is no different to the day before. Stick to the same schedule and put him to bed when the clock says 7pm, but that will really be 8pm. For babies and toddlers who are not sensitive to being over-tired or ones that happily go with the flow, they adjust within a few days and re-settle into the same schedule.
The second option is to slowly change your child’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time changes. For example, on the Wednesday, prior to the time change, put your child to bed 15 minutes later than normal in the hope that he wakes 15 minutes later in the morning. This is determined by our internal clock, so may not always happen. Also, offer his naps 15 minutes later. For the next few days put him to bed 15 minutes later each night until the night of the time change and you will be back to your normal schedule. Please note however, that this can have an adverse effect on children who are sensitive to being overtired. It can result in crankiness, early morning waking, night waking and short naps.
Finally, you could consider sticking to your normal schedule up until the time change and once it kicks in, be flexible and alter the schedule as much as your child can handle. Splitting the difference works well, so on the first night they would go to bed at 6.30pm and this would have been 7.30pm on the day before.
Whatever you decide to do, please be aware that it can take about a week, if not more, for the body to get used to any kind of change in sleeping habits. So for about a week or so you can expect things to be a little off.
For older children you could consider using a ‘time to wake up’ light which will indicate to them if it’s a reasonable time to get up. For younger children, perhaps don’t rush into them if you hear them waking at an earlier time and give them a chance to go back to sleep themselves.
This article was written by Lucy Wolfe.