Daylight savings time is coming up soon. Most parents don’t mind it so much in the autumn, especially if they have slightly older children who sleep a little later. If you have an early riser, you don’t have to change much either, as the clocks will do that for you. If your little one is already in a good sleeping routine, however, and you don’t want that to change when you have to wake them an hour earlier for nursery, school etc. what can you do? Every year I get questions asking for the best way to handle daylight savings time and children’s sleep.
I think if many experts had their way there would not be a daylight savings time. I think it really does affect not only children’s sleep patterns but adults, too. In fact, statistically, there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after daylight savings time and a substantial rise in hospital admissions. It really does have an effect on all of us, and it can increase our sleep debt – especially in children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That is usually why people notice it the most in young children. So what is the best way to handle it?
My best advice for children to help them with the change is to ‘split the difference’ with the old time and the new time. How does that work? If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7:00pm, you would put him to bed at 7:30pm on Sunday night (the first night of the time change). Do this for 3 nights, and on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time, for example 7:00pm or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.
If you have a toddler aged one and older, on Sunday (the first day of the time change) put him down for his first nap 30 minutes later than normal. So if he naps at 9:30am usually, you would put him down at 10:00am. You would do the same with the afternoon nap (if he takes an afternoon nap). For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00pm, you would put him down at 7:30pm. Do this for 3 nights after the time change and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00pm and on 5th day move naptimes back to normal time.
If you have a baby and his bedtime has become predictable (usually over 6 months old) you can change his internal clock more gradually. For example if bedtime is normally 7:00pm move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the normal time. This means that on the first night you would put him down at 7:45pm, the second night 7:30pm, and so on. In four nights you should be back to 7:00pm.
If your little ones bedtime is not predictable (usually in children around 0-6 months old) simply jump to the new time on Sunday night, as if you were traveling to a new time zone.
It may take your little one a bit more time to fall asleep, this is normal, as, initially, they won’t be as tired. It usually takes about a week for children and babies to completely adjust to the new time, some children it can take up to a month. Be patient and consistent, and it will happen.
As the ‘sunlight’ is more likely to be coming into their bedrooms earlier your little one may wake up too early because of this and may struggle to fall asleep while it is still light outside so darkening the room can be very helpful. Ensure your little one’s room is as dark as possible, especially in the morning and evening, a blackout blind can be really helpful if their room is naturally light.
If you are having trouble with any aspects of your child’s sleep, just get in touch – I would love to help you all get a better night’s sleep.