THE CLOCK CHANGE
Sunday 31st March: Springing forward
Your child’s internal clock won’t ‘spring forward’ and change along with your household clocks – our internal clock (circadian rhythm) is a major factor in determining our sleep patterns. If it’s knocked off e.g. by a holiday in a different time zone, or when the clocks change, then our sleep is of course disrupted. If you choose to do nothing, and at 7pm you try putting your child down for bed (their usual time pre-clock change), you will likely have a bit of a battle on your hands as their internal clock will be shouting ‘but it’s only 6pm!’
We recommend 3 options:
Option 1: Do nothing
If your child is sleeping well and is adaptable to change then she will probably just have a few “off” days sleep-wise after the time change. This option works well if your child is waking an hour earlier than you’d like as the time change will effectively bump their routine forward by an hour. If, however, your child is waking too late in the morning then you will need to take action so you can get out the door on time! (see options 2 and 3)
Option 2: Adjust their routine backward
If your child isn’t very adaptable – and you like their routine just the way it currently is – then moving his routine (wake-up, meals, naps, and bedtime) back by 10-15 minutes every few days until he is waking up an hour earlier than usual will prevent the time change from destroying your family’s sleep. For example, if you want to keep a 6.30am wake up time, then for a week or so before the change, work towards your child waking up at 5.30am (shift everything else back too); the day after the time change he will be waking up around 6.30am again.
Option 3: Split the difference
Some parents prefer to avoid any kind of out-of-routine drama like irritableness or over tiredness. It also works for those families who can’t let the time change move their routines by a whole hour but who also know that sticking to the old routine won’t work. So they ‘split the difference’ and shift the routine back by 30mins before the time change. For example, if the child’s wake up time is 6.30am then move her routine (wake-up, meals, naps, and bedtime) back by 10-15 minutes every few days until she is waking up 30mins earlier than usual at 6am. After the time change, she’ll probably wake at 7am, but you can spend a few days working towards a 6.30am wake up time again. Waking 30mins too late is a small problem and it will be easy to get back to your normal times without issue.
Tips to manage “springing forward”
- During the day before, allow your child to have an energetic day that includes lots of fresh air and exercise.
- When you are adjusting the child’s bedtime and wake up time you will also need to move the start of their nap times and just as importantly, their meal times. Eating and sleeping go hand in hand with regulating our circadian rhythms (our body’s expectations of what is due to come next) so it is vital you change meal times too.
- Give clear consistent signals to your child that bedtime is coming with your usual focused wind down, short bath, story, and into bed.
- Keep the bedroom darkened to help produce the sleep hormone melatonin and just use a dim light to help you prepare your child for bed.
- Light is the biggest influencing factor on our body clocks and the production of melatonin, so as soon as you can in the morning get the family outside into the daylight, this will help suppress the sleep hormone and wake your child up if they are feeling tired from missing out on sleep.
- Invest in good black out blinds and curtains – a good tip is to put Velcro all round the bedroom window frame, cut a piece of good quality black out material to size with Velcro attached and put up every evening. This will ensure no light gets in, and will help keep bedtime from getting later and wake up time from getting earlier.
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