On Sunday 27th March the clocks will change as we edge closer to the warmer weather and lighter evenings that many of us, I’m sure are longing for. The clocks go forward in March as we ‘spring into Spring’ meaning that we get an hour less in bed. So, what does this mean in practice for families with little ones? Well, unlike the Autumn clock change which can see toddlers waking up at crazy early o’clock, the Spring clock change in theory means that a toddler that was waking at 7am will wake at 8am on the 27th March, hooray! However, before we get carried away in the excitement of a later wake up, remember this is just for one day, unless you are going to shift bedtime an hour later for the foreseeable!
Preparing for the Change
So, what can we do to prepare for the clock change? There are a number of approaches to help your little one adjust…
- Do nothing. Wait for your little one to wake up at as usual, so likely 8am if it was previously 7am, and go with the flow. You may need to push naps/bedtime back by 30 minutes during the course of the day, or reduce the length of a nap, so that your child is tired enough to go sleep e.g., if bedtime was 7.30pm you may need to push this to 8pm (which is the equivalent of 7pm pre clock change). This is the most straight forward option and is an ideal option if you have an early riser, as 5am will suddenly become 6am which is a little more palatable! It is also a good option if you have a baby or toddler with a very flexible pattern or routine to their day, or for preschool and school age children who are likely to manage the transition fairly easily.
- Go halfway. On the evening of the 26th March try and put your baby or child to bed half an hour before their usual bedtime. This may mean they wake on the 27th half an hour later than normal, rather than an hour later. This is ideal if you feel you want to be proactive and it will likely help your little one transition quickly. Any later wake ups will likely be ironed out over the following day or two.
- Baby steps. If you have a baby or toddler who has a fairly fixed routine you may find a more gradual, incremental approach works better. In this case you would begin preparing for the clock change on Wednesday 23rd March by putting them to bed 10-15 minutes earlier than usual. On the Thursday bring mealtimes and nap times forward by 10-15 minutes and then bring bedtime forward by 10-15 minutes more than the Wednesday night. Each day bring bedtime, nap and mealtimes forward by 10-15 minutes until the Saturday evening when you will be putting your child to bed up to an hour earlier than where you were at the beginning of the week.
If your child has a toddler clock such as the Gro Clock, make sure you remember to change this to the new time ahead of your child going to bed on Saturday 26th March.
If your baby or child is waking later or naps are a little shorter or less consistent for a few days please try not worry, it is likely to be short lived. We all take a bit of time to adjust to the clock change and after a few days your baby or child’s sleep should be back to normal.
As we move into Spring the evenings will become lighter and so your baby or child may be going to bed when it is still light. Try to darken their bedroom when you start their bedtime routine by shutting the curtains and dimming the lights. Melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us feel sleepy, is inhibited by daylight and rises when darkness falls. Darkening the bedroom will help melatonin levels rise, inducing a feeling of drowsiness and readiness for sleep in your little one. If the curtains do not keep much light out you could try a black out blind. Black out blinds that you can stick to the window, such as the Gro Blinds, can be a cheaper and easier alternative to investing in fitted black out blinds. You may also find black out blinds helpful in the summer when it starts getting light at 4am to prevent early morning waking.
In the days following the clock change be consistent with bedtime routines and mealtimes and spend plenty of time outside. The circadian rhythm, which is our master body clock, is affected not only by hormones such as melatonin, but also environmental factors such as light, as well as our habits and behaviours. Exposure to natural daylight regulates our circadian rhythm and mundane daily habits such as our mealtimes and bedtime routine all influence the messages sent to the brain about what time of day it is. The more consistent these habits, the more they positively reinforce the circadian rhythm, speeding up the adjustment to the new ‘normal’ time.
Good luck and let me know how you get on!
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