How to handle the clock change. Yes, this weekend the clocks go forward an hour, signalling the arrival of spring – but potentially playing havoc with a child’s sleep routine. And for adults too – in fact, data has revealed that the spring clock change is responsible for a 24% rise in cardiac arrests the following day, there are 6% more fatal car crashes and depression rises by 11%. Does this tell you how vital our sleep is, even down to the one hour?!
Lucy Shrimpton, Sleep Expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny® shares her advice on how to ensure the transition of the clock change is as easy as possible.
There are lots of different things you can do to make the spring transition as easy as possible. Younger babies and the sensitive types will do better with a more gradual shift while older ones who are no longer napping in the day might manage the change in one go. It can take up to a week to adjust to a change in time so stick to your routine and daily schedule based on the new time right from Sunday morning and keep bedtime anchored in for a smooth transition.
Top tips for handling the clock change
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 clock change. And by this I mean, you 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 to combat the clock change, 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.
If your child seems over-tired by bedtime, an emergency cat-nap of no more than 30 minutes and no later than 4 pm 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.
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.
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.
Give yourself an earlier night on Saturday
Remember that it’s not just your child that loses an hour thanks to the clock change, 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.
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
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.
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.
Article by Lucy Shrimpton, sleep expert and founder of The Sleep Nanny® .
Lucy’s 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.