This weekend the clocks go forward an hour, signalling the arrival of spring – but potentially playing havoc with a child’s sleep routine.
Lucy Shrimpton, Sleep Expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny® (www.sleepnanny.co.uk) shares her top pieces of advice to parents on how to ensure the transition of the clock change is as easy as possible:
“There are lots of plus sides to the clocks going forward an hour, not least of all the lighter mornings. If your little one has been waking super early, this clock change can be a useful tool in shifting their body clock and getting that later wake-up time. So, if your baby or toddler is waking at 5am on Sunday morning, 5am is miraculously 6am! However, for some it could be trickier so here are my top tips:
- Adapt right away – Make sure you adjust right away to the new time and plan naps, meals and routines around the new time.
- Go cold turkey – One popular option is to go completely cold turkey with the clocks change. And by this I mean, get your little one off to bed an hour earlier than you normally would. So, if you put your child to sleep at 6pm instead of 7pm, you’ll still get that 12 hours.
- Take it gradual – If your little one is a real creature of habit and won’t be able to sleep if you put them to bed an hour earlier, you can gradually make their bedtimes earlier each night. So, assuming they have a usual bedtime of 7pm, on Wednesday you can put them to bed at 6.45, Thursday at 6.30, Friday at 6.15 and Saturday at 6pm.
- Go middle ground – The other option would be to meet halfway and just put your little one to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual on the Saturday night. This won’t be a huge change for them so they can easily adapt. Then, on the Sunday go back to the usual bedtime routine.
- Ensure the room is suitably dark – The mornings, and evenings, will be brighter so invest in some room darkening shades or blackout blinds to shut out ever last bit of daylight. If you need a small amount of light in your child’s room go for a low watt, amber night light.
- Get outside – If the weather’s good enough, make some time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Exposing your child to some natural light in the daytime works wonders for their internal clocks. And if you can’t get outside, bright light indoors will do.
- Watch for sleepy cues – Be extra sensitive to your child’s sleepy cues and put them down as soon as you see the signs. These might come at funny times bearing in mind the clock change so be on high alert for them.
- Earlier bedtimes – It could be a good idea to set an even earlier bedtime for a longer while as it could encourage your child to sleep in for longer.
- Emergency Naps – If your child seems over-tired by bedtime, an emergency cat-nap of no more than 30 minutes and no later than 4pm could help them get a better night’s sleep.
- Get a day/night clock – This is great for a toddler who needs to know when it is time to get up or stay in bed.
- Give yourself an earlier night on Saturday – Remember that it’s not just your child that loses an hour so if you can, go to bed an hour earlier. If you do, you’ll wake up fully prepared to deal with a potentially tired little one who’s adjusting to the change.
- Don’t panic – Remember, it may take up to a week for your little one to fully adjust and transition with the clock change so bear with it and don’t panic.
Lucy Shrimpton is a sleep expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny® (www.sleepnanny.co.uk). Her team of sleep consultants based across the UK and around the world help parents and caregivers of babies and young children to overcome the challenges with childhood sleep so that they can be healthy and happy and enjoy these precious years.