I’m delighted to collaborate with Care.com this week sharing my top tips for adjusting your children’s schedule and sleep routines in time for the clocks going back.
You’ve worked hard to get your baby or toddler sleeping through the night but the fact is that many young children are naturally early risers and for this group, the time change can be a little bit of a challenge.
But try to relax because any disruption caused by the clocks going back will be only temporary and even if you do nothing at all to change your little one’s sleep routine, they will naturally over a few days adapt to the new time.
If you do want to take some steps towards minimising the disruption here are some tops tips:
Two weeks before the time change, start to put your baby to bed 10 minutes later than usual, increasing by 10 minutes every other night until they are going to sleep about an hour later than their normal bed time
Don’t worry if at first, they still wake at the same time in the morning; it often takes a few days for a new sleep pattern to establish itself.
Keep to the same naps but not necessarily at exactly the same times – so for example if your child usually wakes at 6.30am and naps at 9.30am and 1.30pm, put them down again around 3 hours after having woken up in the morning and after waking from their naps.
The clocks go back in the early hours of Sunday morning. During the day before, allow your little one have an energetic day which includes lots of fresh air and exercise – go outside and play in the Autumn leaves or go and play inside at a ball pond to tire them out a bit more than usual.
You should also go to bed a bit earlier than usual and discuss with your partner, if you have one, about sharing the job of getting up to your child if they are raring to go at 6am – take it in turns to share the tiredness.
Don’t force your little one to remain in their cot if they have had their usual amount of sleep and are looking wide awake at their normal time as it will set them up for anxiety so just take the next few days to adapt to the new routine yourself and make sure that you get enough sleep so that you are not grumpy or too impatient.
Just simply start to incrementally change their bedtimes to adjust to the time change – slowly and relax – the key here is to give off positive, relaxed vibes around their bedtime as you all adjust to the new schedules.
Toddlers: and older children
With toddlers and nursery aged children, it may be possible to explain the time change but children at this age really have no concept of time so don’t try reasoning with them ! If they have a special clock like a Rabbit that opens their eyes at the time you set it – just reduce it gradually, so the transition is gentle.
Put them to bed a little later than usual the night of the time change.
If they wake up at their usual time encourage them to remain in their bed playing with a toy – add a new one or an old favourite until the sun comes up. Don’t be too ambitious here; any longer than half an hour to wait could become a bit much for your very young child.
When they stay in their bed or cot praise them like mad!
The following day have another active day and then put them to bed at the new earlier bed time.
Set their clock for the new time.
Don’t allow the clocks going back to let you slip into “bad” habits. Bringing your baby into bed with you or giving a dawn milk feed to encourage your baby back to sleep may work in the short term but long term may lead to sleeping problems!!
On the whole, winter time is good for kids sleep patterns. The difference in light levels between day and night encourage the production of sleep hormones, as well as giving them very clear night and day visual clues.
The key is to do things slowly, gently and with confidence and a bit of forward planning as kids pick up your vibes all the time and react to those – so stay relaxed and positive and things will adjust naturally.