I get a lot of requests at this time of year about what to do when the clocks go forward. I have to say that I don’t find this time change as punishing as the clocks going back and for those of you whose children wake on the early side this can be a bonus.
However, it can take a few days and as long as a week, for their body to adjust to a different mood lighting caused by losing an hour and the fact that our natural body clock is being challenged.
I tend to encourage parents not to over-think this transition as I find as parents we have enough to contend with. The best options are the following.
Firstly, ensure that your child is well rested in the run up to this weekend. So, getting good naps and night time sleep; then on the day of the change either:
1. Do nothing; slot them into the new time. Adjust your clock to reflect the new time and by and follow your typical daily routine, with everything pushed ahead by one hour. This way your child will lose an hour and this will mean that bedtime is potentially a whole hour earlier than the night before and you may encounter a struggle, so respond accordingly as they process the change.
2. Spilt the difference between the new time and the “old” time for the first few days with the notion of getting back to your original bedtime within a few days. Match your feeding schedule to this change. For example. If bedtime is usually 7pm, aim for 7.30 “new time”, this in reality would be 6.30pm before the change. This way you may alleviate the struggle and allow their body to adjust with minimum upset to your daily routine.
If you really find that it takes your child time to adjust you could consider bringing timings forward from the Wednesday before the time change.
Adjust bedtime 15 minutes earlier on Wednesday evening and follow this through over the next few days, gradually changing nap times, meal times and of course bedtime by 15 minutes so that by Sunday you will already be on the correct clock.
Some important points to remember:
- Decide on which option suits you and your child/ren best to help with this transition
- Continue to pay attention to your child’s tired signals and act accordingly
- Ensure that the room is dark enough at both bed-time and on wake-up and also for naps. You may need to use black out blinds, if you are not already
- Be flexible, it takes a good few days for or bodies to adjust to the change; that applies to adults as well as children
- Have a consistent response if they are struggling to sleep and avoid ingraining habits that you may need to address in the future.
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org