How to prepare your child for when the clocks go forward

The clocks go forward on this Sunday, March 31 and Paediatric Sleep Expert and Baby Elegance brand ambassador Lucy Wolfe shares her top tips on how to combat any difficulties the time change might cause.

It is a good idea for parents of young children to be aware of a few strategies that can be considered so that sleep is minimally disturbed at this time. It can take a few days and as long as a week for the body, both adults and children alike, to adjust to a different mood lighting caused by the change and the fact that our natural body clock is being challenged.

Firstly, ensure that your child is well rested in the run up to this weekend. Achieving good naps if age appropriate and uninterrupted night time sleep wherever possible, to ensure that their body is optimally rested in advance. There are a number of approaches you can choose from.

Do nothing

You and your child can immediately follow the time once the clock changes. If your child historically wakes at 7am and goes to bed around 7pm, the day the clock changes it will say 8am, but it is no different to the day before. Stick to the same schedule and put them to bed when the clock says 7pm, but that will really be 6pm. For babies and toddlers who are not sensitive to being overtired and highly adaptable, they adjust within a few days and re- settle into the same schedule they have been on previous to the change.

Slightly change the schedule

The second option is to slowly change your child’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time change. For example, start four days prior to the time change, by putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal and they will most likely wake 15 minutes earlier in the morning. This is determined by our internal clock, so it may not always happen.

Also, offer naps 15 minutes earlier. For the next few days put them to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until the night of the time change and you will be back to your normal timetable and no further adjustment are required. You will know your own child best and if typically they are “slow to adapt” this gradual approach may be the preferred option for you.

Be flexible

Finally, you could consider sticking to your normal schedule up until the time change and once it kicks in, be flexible and alter the schedule as much as your child can handle. I often find that splitting the difference between the “old” time and the “new” time works well; on the first night they would go to bed at 7pm and this would have been 6.30pm on the day before, so 30 minutes after their typical bedtime and then adjust the rest of schedule accordingly.

Whatever you decide to do, acknowledge that it can take about a week for the body to get used to any kind of change in sleeping habits and as a result, you can expect your days and potentially your nights to be a little off.

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