Six ways to manage children’s sleep when the clocks change
Maintaining a good sleep routine for your child
It's many parents’ biannual worst nightmare – daylight saving. Just as we think we have managed to get a great, solid sleep routine in place and can plan around bedtime and waking time, it all changes around.
There are two schools of thought on this subject. Firstly, despite our fears, most children will naturally adjust over the course of a few days to a week, so many people just leave nature to take its course and allow their child to settle into the new time at their own pace.
Others, however, believe that a little planning in the week leading up to the change can make the situation pain and hassle free for all involved.
If you would like to prepare to manage your children's sleep pattern ahead of the change, my top tips are:
- For a week beforehand, move your child’s bedtime ten minutes later each day (or earlier when the clocks are going back), until they are going to bed an hour later (or earlier). Then when the clocks change, your child should be expecting to go to bed at their normal time. Don’t worry too much if they don’t go to sleep immediately, but this is a more gradual way to move the bedtime later
- Don’t just move sleep, move all elements of their day by the same amount of time each day, including meals, naps, bath time, etc.
- Try to mirror this in your own routine so that the whole family takes the change in their stride together.
Whichever route you decide to take, however, there are certain things to bear in mind that will make the change easier:
- Regardless of the time you put your child to bed, be sure to keep their bedtime routine the same each night. Whether you read a story, do some baby massage, bathe your child, or sing lullabies, these are all cues for your child that bedtime is near and are important to help them wind down at the end of the day.
- Light makes a huge impact on our body clock, so consider using blackout blinds or heavy curtains to keep the bedroom dark, especially during the lighter summer months.
- If possible, try to let your child wake naturally - we can put this in the 'nice problems to have category' as many children wake early, but it's better if you can allow children to wake up naturally and alter bedtimes to enable them to get enough sleep instead of waking them.
The main thing to remember is that a child with a good sleep routine tends to fare much better with the changes in time, so try to instil that bedtime routine if you can. And if all else fails and you have a tired grumpy child who doesn’t know when to sleep, remember, it should only last a few days.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer