Daylight savings time and the dreaded clock change is coming up this month. For most people that means an extra hour in bed, but if you have small children it means their little body clocks will be waking up an hour ‘earlier’!
If I had it my way, there would be no Daylight Savings Time. I think not only does it affect children’s sleep patterns, but adults as well. In fact, statistically there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. It really does have an effect on all of us and can increase our sleep debt – especially in children who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That is why people notice it the most in young children.
So what is the best way to handle it? Quite simply, my advice is to “split the difference.”
For Autumn ‘Fall Back’, my recommendation to all parents is just to leave the clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After your cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me!
If your little one usually goes to bed around 7pm, put them to bed around 6.30pm for the first three days. This will feel like 7.30pm to your child but should avoid too many overtired tantrums at bedtime. After those three days, move bedtime to the ‘usual’ time of 7pm. It will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everybody’s body roughly one week to adjust any kind of change in sleeping habits.
This will work for naps too. If, for example, your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30, adjust this to 9:00 for the three days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your little one, but not so much that it will cause much damage to his or her schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap.
If you have children over the age of two, try a ‘gro clock’ and set the sunrise time to half an hour earlier, for those first three days (just remember to set it back to normal again afterwards). If you prefer, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minutes, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes (which often confuses toddlers). Just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30 it says 7:00 and let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that, by the end of the week, they will be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.
If you are dealing with a baby, you cannot do that. Do not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, because you do not want to send a message that getting up at 6 a.m. is okay now. So if s/he normally wakes at 7:00, but is now up at 6:00, wait ten minutes before going to him/her on the first day, twenty the next and by the next day it will be 6:30. By the end of the week your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and s/he should be waking up at their usual hour.
At bedtime, get in line with the new time on the fourth night so your baby is back to going to bed when the clock says 7:00 pm. Adjust naps to the correct time on day 4 as well.
Give it time and know that your little one will get back on schedule within a week or two. If these changes are causing you concern, or if they will just add to your little one’s sleep problems, just get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07740 351981.