Each year the time change causes havoc with bedtime for babies and young children. Sometimes even changes to behavior including irritability and hyperactivity.
At this time if year a lot of parents get in touch with me to find out how to manage the time change without disrupting their child’s sleep in the process.
Putting the clocks back at hour means that most kids start waking up an hour earlier, which in turns affects their nap and bedtime. The consequences of which can be a nightmare for a couple of weeks: overtired and hyperactive children and exhausted parents.
1. Plan ahead so that turning the clocks back in autumn doesn’t affect your babies sleep.
I recommend starting around a week before the change by slowly moving the daily routine a little later. If you push back wake up time, nap time and bedtime by about 10-15 minutes every two days.
For example: if your baby normally wakes up at 7am try to let him sleep by ten minutes longer for two days. Then ten minutes more the following days. Then when you turn the clock back an hour he will hopefully still be waking up at 7am.
2. For children over 2 years.
From my experience digital clocks often work. You can use a simple digital clock in your child’s room and tape over the minutes. That way they can only see the numbers 6, 7 etc and the minutes won’t confuse them. You just have to change the clock to say 6.30am at 7am. And teach them that they need to stay in bed until they can see the 7 on the clock. If you start a week or so before then by the time the clocks change their should be pretty much adapted.
3. For children under two years old.
In the case of smaller babies there is different advice. When you hear your baby waking up don’t run in the greet them and start the day at right away as this will only reinforce that it is the right time for them to be waking up. So if they normally wake up at 7am but it’s now 6am, wait ten minutes before getting them up the first couple of days and then 20 mins the following couple of days. In about a week they will have adjusted to the new wake up time and you won’t have to worry.
4. If you haven’t had time to start adjusting the schedule before the time change, don’t worry.
In this case I recommend putting your child down for the night about an hour earlier for a week.
For example, if you normally put them in bed at 19h, then you can put them to bed at 18.30pm for the first three days after the change. Then 18.45pm for the following three days. Remember that their brain is telling them that it is 19.30pm even though it is now 18.30pm. It should only take about a week for them to adjust, just like adults.