Spring Clock Change Top Tips
On March 28th, the clocks move forward 1 hour, are you ready?
Twice a year, parents start to panic at thought of THE CLOCK CHANGE. I can t say I blame them. Gone are the days when you would either gain an extra hour sleep, or just feel a bit off for a day or two while your body readjusts to losing an hour.
Now we have to think about little people, little people who aren’t ready for this, little people who don’t know or understand it is coming, little people who’s wake up times don’t change just because the clocks do. This means in Autumn, a 6am wake-up would become a 5am wake-up, which is not a fun place to be, no one wants that. In summer 6am becomes 7am, which sounds great, but then you may be hit with the bedtime battle when your little one isn’t ready to go to sleep after a shorter than normal day.
Don’t worry, there is plenty you can to do to prepare for this, and in Spring, you can really use this get rid of early rising and get a more sensible wake up time.
Unless 6am or 7am was always your natural time to wake up pre-children, it never feels completely sensible, at least not for me who craves the 8am wake up from the alarm, and a lie in at weekends every now and again. I am most definitely not an early bird.
Here are my Top Tips:
Expect Lighter Mornings:
As the mornings and the evenings get lighter, you may find that you could end up with trouble at both ends of the night. At bedtime, they may not feel it is time for bed as it is still light outside, and in the early hours as the sun comes up and the birds start to sing, they may naturally wake up thinking it is morning. As they are unable to tell the time, why would they think any different?
We already have our blackout blinds up along with duplex blinds and blackout curtains in Sofia’s bedroom. I have the FOMO (fear of missing out) child who doesn’t want to miss ANYTHING so if the sun is up, it must be time to get up and do something.
I would highly recommend blackout blinds, and I find the portable ones are great as you can take them away with you if you are travelling, but also take them down when you no longer need them in winter. We have used both the Gro Blinds and the Easynight Blinds. I personally like the Easynight blinds as they have a silvered side to reflect the heat, which will help during the summer months to aid keeping the room cooler. They are also easy to attach to the frame using velcro rather than suckers on the window, so less likely to fall down and they block out all the light that creeps through the gaps in the corners.
When children reach about 20 months old, they can understand a basic sleep clock, I like to recommend the Claessons Kids Sleep Clock, this can help them learn when it is OK for them to get up and when they are to be asleep. If you have a pre-schooler or older, you may find starting with something like the Gro Clock more suitable, however, don’t feel you need to change the clock if you already have a simpler version.
To help decide, the Kids Sleep Clock is as simple as a rabbit being awake, or being asleep, it is very easy for a toddler or young child to understand, they added some features to increase its age suitability for up to 7 year olds by introducing the moon going down and the sun coming up, and additional features to make it useful from birth in the form of a nightlight. The Gro Clock requires them to understand the concept of stars counting down until the sun wakes up. Both are great clocks and ultimately do the same thing, so pick which suits your little ones understanding the best.
My Issue With Sleep Clocks
As much as the concept of sleep clocks is fantastic, I am yet to find one that doesn’t emit blue light. Blue and white lights are the least favourable colours for supporting sleep. This is why you will see the colours of the numbers on the digital alarm clocks are red, as red is the colour they least disrupts sleep and melatonin. I find the blue light does put a lot of people off using sleep clocks, myself included.
I recently started using a red filter gel, the sort that goes on lights in theatres and in photography studios. I cut it to size and sellotaped it to the clock to help block out the blue light. The light is still blue, however, it really does take the edge off. It does mean however, that if you are using the gro clock, they won’t to be able to see the stars or the writing as it does dim it down significantly, so you may just need to say if it’s blue it’s night time, rather than counting down stars..
How to get your child onto the new time:
There are a few ways you can do this, and which one works best will be down to how sensitive your child is to change and well they sleep.
If you have an older child that doesn’t nap, or is generally not overly affected by change and you want to keep to your normal wake-up time, you may opt to go cold turkey and just put him to bed at the new time from night one. No change required, just an early night for him (and the grown up’s if you can).
So for example, if 7pm is normal bedtime, this would be a 6pm bedtime on Saturday night and 7pm on Sunday night, and this one works great for those little ones stuck in the early to bed rut. He might be a little crankier at going to bed before he feels he is ready on the Saturday, however, follow my tips on routine and physical activity and you will get him on track.
Alternatively, you could keep to a normal 7pm bedtime, and the hour early the following night would just be 7pm. It is personal choice as to whether you would prefer the extra hour at night, or in the morning.
If you are finding you are stuck in a rut of early to bed and early rising, the cold turkey option is great as you won’t need to do anything. If 6pm has become your normal bedtime, then keep to this on the Saturday evening and your 5am is now 6am, then you go straight to 7pm bedtime on Sunday night, so the old 6pm.
Split the difference
If you have a child who is moderately OK with change, sleep isn’t a huge issue, but you just feel the whole hour changing in one go is too much, you could opt to split the difference. If 7pm is normal bedtime, on the Saturday night, put him to bed at 6:30pm, then on Sunday night, 7pm, (so the old 6pm), so he has done it in half hour stages.
For most babies and young children, a little more planning may be needed to help them adapt with the least disturbance. You can opt to do this over a few days or a whole week.
This option works extremely well if you already have an early riser, and the cause of the early rising is overtiredness.
Based on a 7pm bedtime, you want to gradually bring bedtime earlier. You could choose to this by 10 minutes per night, or you could do this over a few days and go with 15 – 20 minutes earlier each night. It depends how flexible you can be with your week, so make sure you plan it in advance around your capability of getting him to bed after work/nursery/school etc. If you can’t make the changes over a week as it is too much of a rush, you may opt to start the changes on Thursday night and do 6:40pm bedtime, Friday 6:20pm and Saturday at 6pm and Sunday is back to normal at normal 7pm.
This is a great way to help a child who is rising early due to overtiredness, as bedtime is the most natural time to catch up on sleep. Don t panic, it doesn’t generally mean they will wake up earlier as they can use these early to beds as a sleep catch up. If you have a child who doesn’t have any sleep debt, you may find they do wake that bit earlier each day, but this is only going to help them be back onto their normal schedule come Monday.
This is especially helpful if you are planning on going cold turkey or splitting the difference. You want your child to be tired and ready to go to bed early. Lots of fresh air and high energy. A couple of years ago we found out about the toddler sessions at the trampoline parks. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a stop to any of these wonderful activities, however, I have found a lot of parks tend to have mini trampolines now, or if like the thousands of other families in 2020, you may have even got your own trampoline in the garden.
As our body clock tends to like routine, it tells us when to eat, sleep and even poo (yes really), it is a good idea to try to reset this by focusing on the day as well as the night.
For example, if every morning, breakfast is at 8am, lunch at 12 noon, dinner at 5pm and bedtime is 7pm, if you have opted to do a 20 minute early to bed transition, you would be looking to change meal times also on the following day.
If Thursday nights bedtime is 6:40pm, Friday mealtimes may look like this; 7:40am breakfast, 11:40am lunch, 4:40pm dinner and 6:20pm bedtime.
Saturday may look like 7:20am breakfast, 11:20am lunch, 4:20pm dinner and 6:00pm bedtime, and on Sunday, everything is back to normal with the 8am breakfast.
This doesn’t just go for meal times, if naps are part of the equation, you would follow the same pattern for naps and bring everything that bit earlier to help keep your child in sync.
If you haven’t already got a bedtime routine, this is great opportunity to introduce one. If you have one already, remain consistent.
Remember, babies and young children only learn from the messages we give to them, so routine is very important in helping them understand what is about to happen. I always suggest trying to do the same things in the same order every night. Young children are guided by events taking place in certain orders, rather than you trying to explain something to a 2 year old they just can’t understand.
Start with a bedtime routine trigger, this could be a bathroom visit, whether it be a bath or just a face wash and teeth brushed (if they have any). This is their first clue that sleep is on its way. To avoid adding additional stimulation into the routine, aim to have the rest of the routine take place in the bedroom he is sleeping in. This could consist of getting him dressed for bed, a feed if they are still having a bedtime feed, reading a story or 2 and then into bed.
As children get a little older, you may opt to offer a pre-bedtime routine where you wind them down before taking them up to bed. Try to lower lighting or close the blinds or curtains from this point to help aid melatonin release, and make sure the television is off at least 1 hour before bed.
A pre-bedtime routine can force you to have quality family time when things seem quite stressful and rushed. I tend to suggest splitting it into 3 sections, the first could be finding time to really laugh together. It could be tickle fights, dancing, big body play etc. Anything to dust away the days cobwebs, relieve stress and anxiety and make bedtime more fun while letting children burn off some last bits of energy. Laughing is great for releasing endorphins that make you feel happy as is exercise.
You can then move this on to quieter time where you can mentally tire them. This could be jigsaws, orchard games, drawing etc.
Your final part could be stories together while cuddling on the sofa. If your child still has milk before bed but is old enough to drink from a cup rather than a bottle, this is a great place to introduce the milk. This then means that your child is going to sleep with teeth that have been cleaned after milk, rather than brushing teeth then adding the sugar from the milk to the teeth to slowly rot them throughout the night.
If you can, try to have the bedroom a little dimmer than full light, we use a colour changing light bulb so even on the white light, it is a little duller. This is to help aid melatonin release, (the sleepy hormone), and ready them for bed. I also like this bulb as you can change the colour via a remote, so if you were ever to need a light in the night, for example if your child was sick and you needed to see what you were doing, you can switch the light to red, and it shouldn’t disrupt his sleep too much when it is time to go back to sleep.
Starting the Day
Another way to help reset their body clock (and this goes for us grown ups aswell), is to introduce lots of natural light first thing in the morning. Once you have got up for the day, open the blinds and curtains to let as much light in as possible. Get up and out and start the day. I can’t wait for the warm mornings to be able to do this.
This is not going to change your child sleep pattern, however, the clock change is a great reminder for us to check our smoke alarms and change batteries if needed.
If you are finding that whatever you do, you are struggling with sleep and it is affecting you, please do not feel you need to suffer alone. Parenting is difficult, even more-so when you are sleep deprived. Please reach out for help, whether it be to your health visitor, a feeding specialist if this is the root cause, or a sleep professional. You can watch multiple videos on Facebook from my live Q&A sessions, alternatively, you may wish to look at my online sleep plan for babies between 6 and 24 months old. Most recently there has been an addition of a Toddler and Preschooler Behavioural Sleep Strategies workshop that you can watch back for just £5.99 for children between 20 months and 6 years old.