How to ‘spring forward’ with the least disruption to your little one’s sleep....

It is coming to that time of year where the clocks go forward and some people look forward to enjoying the lighter evenings that the clock change bring us. 

However, for some babies and children,the transition is not always smooth.

I wanted to offer a couple of suggestions on how you may be able to help your little one(s) adapt to the clock change, and how sometimes you can use it to your advantage! 

Two things to bear in mind when working out how to prepare for the clock changes are:

For some children making the transition gradual can really help, although I find that when the clocksgo forward the transition is much easier even without a gradual change.

The second thing to take into consideration is that one of the key factors in changing the body clock to be ready for sleep and to wake up at a certain time is LIGHT! 

Using light to help your child adjust can be the key. With the evenings becoming lighter you may find that you need to invest in heavy curtains or black out blinds to help keep the room nice and cosy and dimly lit HOWEVER you can also use TINFOIL!

If you wipe the window with a damp cloth then tinfoil (aluminium foil) sticks really well to the window and blocks out all light coming through.

Tips to prepare for the clocks going forward …

For those that want to use a gradual approach:

A few days before you can start preparing your child by shifting bedtime 15 minutes earlier every couple of days.

It can help to dim the lights and have some nice calm time earlier than usual, and it can also help if they have lots and fresh air and energetic activity in the afternoon to help them feel tired. Dimming the light is key to helping the body clock adjust. Avoid screen time for an hour or two before bedtime (and this all-year round!) and keep any dim lighting to a warm glow rather than a white/blue light as again this helps release the right sleep hormones.

In the morning similar advice applies to the use of light, where possible keep the room dark when it is ‘night’ time and use lots of daylight to indicate when ‘morning’ has arrived! Lots of babies and children manage to ‘springforward’ perfectly well without a gradual approach.

If you decide to just make the change when the time comes then as with the gradual change use dimlight and day light to help the body clock adjust. Encourage plenty of exercise and fresh air in the afternoon preceding the clock change in order to tire the child out if you are hoping to put them to bed a little earlier than usual to compensate for the lost hour overnight.

There are various options, here are 3 of them:

Put your child to bed at the same time as usual on the current / ‘old’ time and wake them at the‘new’ morning. So, if their normal wake up is 7am then wake them at 7am new time which is actually 6am old time and so they will have slept one hour less than usual. Make sure there is plenty of daylight when you wake them so that their body clock adjusts more readily. Be mindful during the day that they may be a bit more tired (and possibly grouchy) than usual

Put your child to bed an hour early current time and again wake them at their normal morning time on the ‘new’ time as above. This way they will have adjusted but will have not lost an hour sleep. You may find that your child is not ready to go to bed an hour early but could have nice quiet time in a dim light etc until they settle. You may want to consider having a shorter nap this day (if your child is still napping)

Make a judgement call towards the end of the day, it may be that you put them to bed 20 or 30mins earlier if they seem tired enough, and still wake them at their usual wake time but on the ‘new’ time. 

One great benefit of the clocks going forward comes if you are experiencing issues with your child waking very early in the morning as 5.30am ‘old time’ becomes 6.30am ‘new time’!

If this is the case immediately move to the time you would like them to wake ‘new’ time.The loss of an hour may mean that your child is a bit out of sorts for a day or two and if your baby/child has a little bit of a routine then hopefully this will help them feel settled and you can adjust naps accordingly.

But, of course, listen and observe your child and tweak your responses in line with your instincts!If your child struggles with the change consistency is key, and with a consistent approach and the help of LIGHT then your child should soon adjust.

One final point is that some parents find they can use the clock change to help reset a child’s schedule, so if a baby is naturally going to bed early and waking early but the parents prefer to shift things a little later then this can be the perfect opportunity for this to happen naturally, just put baby to bed at their normal time and move them immediately an hour later as of the next morning... if they naturally wake at 6am this will be 7am on the ‘new’ time and as such they can be put to bed at 7pm the following evening and the adjustment is made (hopefully!)I hope this helps!

Remember parenting is a bit of a rollercoaster, it often doesn’t go to plan, it doesn’t mean you are failing! Listen to your gut, and trust that you know your children best – what works for someone else might not work for you – and that’s ok!

Below are some links to some blog posts that I have written on sleep.

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