So the clocks go forward on Saturday night into Sunday morning 25th March, and similar to the clocks going back in autumn, it never ceases to amaze me that even though this has happened twice a year for my whole life, it still sends me and my family into slight disarray for a few days after! We seem to spend the days after thinking ‘Oh, it’s only really 6am/11am/5pm/is it not bedtime yet?’ and mourn the loss of the hour much more than we should.
That’s probably due to the fact we lose out on an hour of our precious sleep and for parents, an hour can make all the difference, especially if you already have a child who’s an early riser! Sunday could prove to be a very long day for some.
Please don’t panic that your routines and hard work with sleep training are going to go to pot because of an hour, although having realistic expectations of how things might affect your family and a little preparation beforehand could save a lot of disruption in the nights that follow.
Read through my 5 tips below and think how you can adapt them to suit you and your child this coming weekend.
- Keep to your normal bedtime routine which should be no longer than 20-30 minutes from the start to getting in to bed and saying good night. Long drawn-out bedtime routines will only trigger more problems when it comes to sleep time. If you don’t already, then include quiet time at least for half an hour prior to starting the bedtime routine to give you and your child chance to chill out, relax and reconnect with each other after a busy day – this also reduces anxieties and will help your child to feel more secure going to bed.
- If you can, a few nights before the clocks change, bring bedtime forward by 15 minutes. So for example, if bedtime is normally 7pm, bring it back to 6.45pm and so on so that on Saturday bedtime will be 6.15pm and then come Sunday evening, bedtime can resume back to 7pm as the clocks will have gone forward. If your child has a nap, wake them up 5 minutes earlier from the last nap during this transition.
- Check the environment in the bedroom is still conducive to sleep. Do you need a blackout blind/curtains? I have in the past resorted to throwing a blanket over curtains which weren’t up to the job, so do what you need to do to keep the room dark. Hopefully the weather will improve and you will need to think about a lighter tog sleeping bag or quilt as it gets warmer. If your little one needs a night light, then replace any white/blue lights with warmer tones such as red or orange. White/blue light will interrupt the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) which is not what we want!
- One of the most difficult parts of sleep training can be dealing with an early riser and the lighter mornings certainly don’t help with this. Again, making sure the room remains dark in the morning will help and if possible, think about moving the bed so your child isn’t directly facing the window. For older children, a night light on a timer to indicate to your child that it’s time to get up will also help. Anything before 6am is not morning! If, for example they’ve started to wake at 5am, set the timer for the light to come on at 5.15am and increase by 15 minutes each day. Encourage your child to stay in bed with little interaction and fuss – this is where being realistic comes into the equation as these changes won’t happen overnight and can possibly take up to a couple of weeks for them to adjust to. Persevere and it will be worth it in the long run.
- If all else fails and you can’t alter bedtimes on the run up to the clock change, don’t panic! On Sunday, make sure everyone is up between 7-8am, this will be tiring but can pay off later on in the day. It might be tempting to tire your little one out but often being over-tired and over-stimulated can be another trigger for no sleep. Plan to be active and if your child naps, this will need to be earlier than normal to avoid them becoming over-tired later on. Forget about ‘old time’ and stick to ‘current time’ with bedtime being when it normally would be.
Of course, you may be wondering what all of the fuss is about and feel that it’s not normally an issue for you but sometimes the bedtimes following the clock change can be challenging as little ones (and bigger ones) adapt to the lighter nights. It can be confusing for them when they’ve been so used to going to bed when it’s dark outside (winter does seem to go on for forever!) Remember to continue with your routines, persist with what you normally do and be consistent with the messages you give your child so they can adapt to the change without too much disruption.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts on these issues or would like any support in helping you to address any sleep problems your child may be having. Get in touch either through Facebook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get in touch via my website contact form.
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