This weekend it’s the changing of the clocks; the time to revel in an extra hour in bed, or feel virtuous by getting outside and enjoying the extra hour of evening sunshine.
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. And this spring there’s some good news (and a little bit of bad news). Because the dawn of British Summer Time falls on the same weekend as Easter, the bank holidays give you a bit more time to adjust.
The downside is that any child aged three or above will probably be so full of chocolate-filled anticipation that your once a year chance of a lie-in this Sunday is pretty much non-existent.
In spring, Daylight Saving Time starts and the clocks ’spring forward’ - so if your baby or toddler normally wakes at 6.30am and goes to bed at 7pm the chances are that this Sunday they will wake at 7.30am and be ready for bed at 8pm. So what exactly can you do to minimise the impact?
- Instead of waiting until Sunday and then expecting your child to move everything by an hour, move your whole routine forward by ten minutes each day. (If you have a really awful sleeper, move it every two days).
- Start early. Take advantage of the bank holiday Friday and start the process then. If you’re not working, you could consider starting on Thursday.
- Don’t just change bedtime. 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 Friday lunch is at 11.50am; Saturday it’s 11.40; Sunday it’s 12.30 (in ‘new’ time - so 11.30 in ‘old’ time); Monday it’s 12.20/11.20 and Tuesday 12.10/11.10.
End of Hibernation
There are other factors as well as routine. The lighter evenings mean we’re all going to wake up from our winter hibernation and feel more energised. You may also find that the lighter evenings don’t just affect bedtimes, but that your little one wakes in the night. Eek...sorry. But here are a few things you can try to stop that...
- Make sure your baby’s room is dark. Black out blinds and curtains are worth their weight in gold during the summer.
- Exhaust your little one with some pre-tea outdoor exercise. It’s tempting to get outside in the evening to make the most of the lighter evenings, but the body responds to sunlight by reducing the amount of melatonin produced , the chemical that makes us feel sleepy. Not ideal for a good night’s sleep!
- Even if you’ve got things to do in the last hour of the day, don’t be tempted to give them screen time to keep them occupied/maintain your sanity. 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.
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. It just won't feel like that at the time...