It‘s that time of year again and the clocks going back or forward strike fear into the heart of all parents that have struggled with their baby or children sleep especially if your little one is prone to waking up to start the day too early or you have only recently managed to solve some of the sleep issues that you have been having. Lucy Wolfe from Sleepmatters gives parents tips on baby and child sleep.
At this time of year I get lots of questions from frantic parents wanting to know the best way to deal with the time change, it affects not only children’s sleep but adult sleep too.
I have three solutions:
#1. Follow the Time
You and your child can immediately follow the time once the clock changes. Your baby waking at 7am and going to bed around 7pm. 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 (or 8pm/7pm). 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.
#2. Slowly Change the Schedule
The second option is to slowly change your child’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time changes. Say for example on the Wednesday, prior to the time change, put your child to bed 15 minutes later (or earlier) 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 (or earlier). 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. Not good, I know.
#3. Be Flexible
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. I often find that splitting the difference works well – so on the first night they would go to bed at 7pm and this would have been 7.30pm on the day before.
It may take a week to adjust
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.
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MIAPSC, Paediatric Sleep Consultant and mum of four young children, specialises in infant and child sleep problems that parent’s experience and need assistance in solving. She can help you identify areas affecting your child’s sleep and gently unlock your child’s natural ability to sleep through the night and nap during the day, without leaving them to cry alone.
Have you got a tip to share that helped your child when the clocks changed? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below