Many people will relish the thought of an extra hour in bed when the clocks go back this Sunday. But for many parents with young children, this is a far-flung dream! 7pm will become 6pm and worse still 6am will become 5am! Or in our house 5:15 will become 4:15!!!!! Not a pretty thought.
Routine is key for children so if you don’t fancy “doing nothing and seeing what happens” here are some alternative methods
Option 1: Slow adjustments leading up to the clocks going back
1. Many parents have found success changing bedtime over the course of a week, or a weekend, depending on the age and temperament of your little one. For young children, it’s often easiest to change the bedtime in 15-minute increments over a long weekend. For babies and toddlers who nap, it can be best to spread the change over a longer period of time. Depending on your child, you can change bedtime by 10 minutes per day over 6 days until you’re on the right schedule.
2. Plan days with heavy activity in the morning, particularly physical activity, and then a more relaxed and calm afternoon for the days on which you are putting the bedtime later. If your young baby is particularly sleepy you may even need to introduce an extra power-nap in the late afternoon.
3. During the transition, keep lights bright and curtains open a little longer to encourage children to stay awake for longer. Make bath time a little longer to help stretch out the time.
4. Be sure that windows have black-out shades for the morning time so the light is blocked out and children are not woken up earlier than they should be.
5. Over the days you change bedtime, be sure to change bath time, naptime and mealtime to match the new routine. If the bedtime changes are gradual – say 10 minutes over 6 days – then change the other activities by 10 minutes as well.
6. Be sure to adjust your own schedule in the same way you change your children’s. It will make the routine move more easily for everyone.
7. If you have a child who wakes up early naturally, then you may need to look at adjusting the bedtime over a longer period to ensure the extra hour is fully accounted for. Or if your child is a late sleeper, and you need more time to get ready in the mornings, then you may find moving the bedtime back a half hour rather than an hour will help.
8. If your child is older, you can offer rules that support the change in routine. Some parents use clocks with a sun and a moon and tell the child that they must stay in bed as long as the moon is out. Some use this as a way of reinforcing the lesson of telling time with the rationale that certain times are for playing and others for staying cozy under the blankets.
9. To ensure a calm and peaceful bedtime, always be careful what your child eats close to bedtime. Do not allow children to have drinks that contain caffeine and or food and drinks that contain lots of sugar, especially late in the day, as they can affect the ability to fall asleep. Milk contains tryptophan, which increases the amount of serotonin a natural sedative. This is why a lot of old folk remedies include warm milk. A banana with milk provides vitamin B6, which helps convert the tryptophan to serotonin. Another fruit to consider is Cherries, which contain melatonin, which the body produces to regulate sleep.
10. If your child has difficulty going to sleep then try relaxation exercises to help your children to get themselves off to sleep more comfortably. For example, try tensing and relaxing each limb/muscle of the body in sequence to teach them how to let go of tension and bring their focus into their body. Also, teach them to breathe from their diaphragm by placing your hand on their belly as the breath in and out. This will help them relax more easily.
Option 2: Accept that your child will probably wake up at the normal time but see if you can keep them in their cot or bed for 10 minutes or so longer.
Then you stagger the time change through the day. Why not add a couple of extra snacks and try…
- Breakfast – 15 mins later
- Lunch – 35 mins later
- Tea – 60 mins later
Meal times can help to set your body clock so tweaking mealtimes can really help get their body clock where it needs to be.
And then your final task is to see if you can move bedtime to an hour later, without a torrent of tired tears. Perhaps this is where an extended bath can come in handy or some extra bedtime stories. See what you can do – if your baby or child can’t make the full extra hour, don’t push it.
If all else fails, remember that any disruption tends to be temporary. Most infants and children get back on schedule within 3 days to a week.