The clocks are going back this weekend, and many parents wonder how it will impact sleep. Something that takes on a very different meaning once you have children. Rarely for parents does putting the clocks back mean and extra hour in bed, until they get older anyway.
The good news is, even if you do nothing your body clock will adapt within a few days or so. Body clocks really like routine and consistency so the easiest thing to do sometimes, is do nothing. Just adjust to the time change after it has happened. Much as you would do if you went abroad and landed in a different time zone, of course we are only changing one hour so it won’t be quite as dramatic as a full time difference.
What can I do to help my child adapt quickly to the time change?
Your circadian rhythm aka your body clock is internally generated but is influenced by the environment, habits as well as other things. See our blog for more details on this click here
As light is the main environmental cue, exposing your body to the right lighting can help adjust quickly to a new time. So when your little one wakes earlier than usual e.g their 6.30am wake up may now be a 5.30am wakeup on the morning of the change, try to keep them in their dark bedroom for as long as you can without putting on the lights, treating the wake up like you would any night wake. You may need to lie with them, keep nipping in and out of their room to settle, breast bottle feed to keep them sleepy or do whatever you normally do at a nightwake. Even if they don’t go back to sleep, just being quiet in the dark will help keep their body clock in night time mode.
Daytime Try and get as much outside time as you can during the day, exposure to broad spectrum daylight will help speed up resetting the body clock. Even if the sun isn’t shining, get outdoors.
For napping babies and children, you can adjust their naps in two ways:
1) Adjust to the new time straight away. This is appropriate if they slept ok into the morning of the time change to a reasonable time and therefore may adapt easily; or
2) Adjust slowly and move their nap in increments towards the new time. Appropriate if they woke super early and are very tired and cannot make it to the new timings straight away.
E.g. if they normally wake at 6.30am and they woke at 5.30am by their usual nap time of e.g. 9am they might be overtired. So perhaps look at napping them at 8.15/30am instead, each day you can adjust by 15 mins or so until you are back to normal timings.
Bedtime may also need adjusting and can be treated in the same way as the naps as mentioned above. If they normally go to bed at 7pm then on day one they may need a 6.15/30pm bedtime but you can incrementally bring this later over a day or two. Or if you are adjusting to new time straight away, then consider a 10min powernap to get them through to bed time if they need it.
Emma has worked with families for 7 years, supporting mums and their babies as they transition to motherhood and beyond.
Emma is currently training on one of the most comprehensive sleep courses available, at OCN level 5. Watch this space to learn about our upcoming sleep seminars and 1-1 consultations.