The clocks change by an hour twice a year in the UK at the start and end of British summer time with 2019’s summertime officially ending on Sunday 27th October. When this happens the 60-minute leap of our total sleep routine often makes life impossible for babies and children who don’t fully understand why things are being turned upside down and why mummy and daddy are still in bed when they are bright and breezy in the old time zone.
Rather than make the adjustment all in one go it’s far better to stagger the change over six days. This is closer to our natural body clock’s expectations that things change by roughly 2 minutes a day and is much easier for children and babies to cope with. In fact making the change in a single day is now known to create an effect called social jet lag as it mimics a jump in time zone similar to long-haul flights across different time zones. All the body’s systems can get affected including digestion and mental alertness.
Here are my tips to minimise the effect on young children and babies:
Make a gradual adjustment
Move bedtimes and wake times back by ten minutes a day over a six-day period. Here 8pm becomes 7.50pm, 7.30pm becomes 7.20pm and so forth. If you have older children they can normally cope with a 15-minute adjustment over four days starting on Thursday evening as this only Friday’s school day routine.
Adjust all routines within the day
Adjusting every part of your day will keep every part of your body clock in sync. This includes nap time and bath time for babies and young children and all meal times for the whole family. For older children who no longer have a bath you could get them to read a book later or longer, or start your bedtime routine such as cleaning teeth (without the bright light on) later.
Get outside in order to get the sunlight
Early morning sun as an essential part of helping the body to wake up. It stimulates cortisol production the ‘wake-up hormone‘, and makes it easier to get to sleep in the evening as it strengthens our body clock. (circadian rhythm). Sunlight on our skin also makes vitamin D, which helps us cope with the winter blues and improves our mood and sleep.
Exercise outside too
Plan your mornings with any exercise for the day, with a more relaxed afternoon to seek out your children’s energy allowing them to stay up later. Keep the lights slightly brighter than normal in the early evening too to stretch the evenings a little each day.
Improve ‘sleep hygiene’ for you and the whole family
Good sleep for the whole family starts with parents leading by example. Educate older children about why sleep is important and lead by example by not taking your phones into the bedroom, making it easier to set reasonable boundaries, with one rule for all. If you have poor sleep hygiene your children will learn this habit from you.
Don’t worry if it does not go to plan
Regardless of things going wrong and not being able to get things sorted either early in the week, or on the night itself, any disruption to children’s sleep tends to be temporary. Most babies, infants and children are back on track within 3 days to a week maximum
Article written by Dave Gibson, the founder of The Sleep Site. Dave has been practising as a naturopath and osteopath in London for over 15 years and he is also a qualified hypnotherapist, providing naturopathic advice across a wide range of conditions to promote good sleep patterns and quality sleep.