The clocks are changing: our top tips for minimising those 5am starts and maintaining your baby’s sleep routine
Next weekend it’s the changing of the clocks; the time to revel in an extra hour. Will you have a cheeky lie-in, or feel virtuous by using the time for an extra-long run?
Oh wait, you’ve got children. Well, in that case, it’s that twice yearly joke again; when there’s an extra little twist in the on-going saga of sleep deprivation and torture.
Fortunately, a bit of pre-planning can go along way in making sure the changing of the clocks doesn’t affect your little one’s sleep routine too much. Or yours....
In autumn, Daylight Saving Time ends and the clocks ’fall back’ - so if your baby or toddler normally wakes at 6.30am and goes to bed at 7pm, the chances are that next Sunday she will wake at 5.30am and be ready for bed at 6pm. Yay. So what exactly can you do to minimise the impact?
1. Don’t wait until Sunday and then expect your baby to move everything by an hour. Instead, move your whole routine back by ten minutes each day. (If you have a really awful sleeper, move the routine every two days.)
2. Start early. Wednesday or Thursday is your best bet.
3. Don’t just change the bedtime routine. Every other part of your routine - naps, meals and snacks - also need to be adjusted by ten minutes each day.
What this means in practice is that if your little one normally has lunch at noon, then on Thursday lunch is at 12.10; Friday it’s 12.20; Saturday it’s 12.30... and Sunday it’s 11.40 (in ‘new’ time).
There are other factors as well as the routine that will help.
4. Make sure your baby’s room is dark in the morning. Blackout blinds and curtains are worth their weight in gold for at least eight months of the year, including now.
5. Give your little one some pre-tea outdoor time. We all know that a little bit of exercise energises us, and it might be just the boost your little one needs to see them through that rough last hour. (Although don’t over-do it. A three hour hike may have the opposite effect...)
6. Dont be tempted to give them screen time to ‘keep them going’ during the last hour of the day. The light that’s given off by TVs and electronic screens is also associated with the brain chemicals that keeps us awake, so an hour on the iPad isn’t going to do you any favours.
The good news is that the autumn change is generally less brutal for parents than the spring change, when lighter evenings mean we wake up from our winter hibernation.
Of course, there are always going to be those nights where the baby is up for hours and just as you settle him, the toddler decides that 5am is a perfectly acceptable start to the day. The best solution? Remember that you’ll have a lifetime to catch up on sleep, but you will never have this time with your little one again.