When the clocks ‘spring forward’ in March, many parents worry that their child’s sleep patterns will be adversely affected. After all, it takes adults a little while to adjust to the new timings (even if we don’t realise it), so for a child who has no concept of what time even is, it must be impossible to fathom.
However, for tired, concerned parents, there are some simple things that can be done to make this transition an easy one. All being well, your little one won’t even notice that anything has changed, and you can relax knowing that there are no issues ahead for you.
Make It A Gradual Change
You’ll look at the calendar and realise that the clocks are going to change and you might feel a little panicky. There’s no need, though. The process to make the jump forward an easy one can start a whole week before the big event, which is why you should bring your child’s bedtime forward. Just 10 minutes is fine for the first two days. Then try 15 minutes for another couple of days. Finally, bring bedtime forward by a full 20 minutes two or three days ahead of the clocks changing.
Have A Good Routine
As well as starting to have an earlier bedtime in preparation of the time changing to BST from GMT, you will also need to keep to a good bedtime routine. Keep the lights dim, and pull the curtains around 30 minutes before bedtime is due. This will give your child visual cues that they will be going to bed very soon. Blackout blinds are useful at this point; the evenings will be staying light for longer which, although lovely in one sense, is a real pain in another – your child won’t want to sleep if they think it’s still daytime even if they are tired.
Change The Morning Routine
Although bedtime needs to be kept the same, the mornings should be adjusted. The lights should be turned on and the curtains or blinds opened so that natural light can come in. This helps your child wake up and it sends a signal to their bodies and brains that morning has come.
Reduce Screen Time
This is a useful tip for easier bedtimes even when the clocks aren’t changing; reduce screen time (that’s tablets, TVs, or any other kind of electronics) before bedtime, and try to turn everything off at least an hour before your child needs to be in bed. This is their time to wind down and relax, but the excitement of whatever is on TV, or a computer game, won’t let that happen. Plus these devices emit a light that confuses the brain and it won’t realise it’s time for sleep.
Wear Them Out
On the day of the clock change, make sure you have plenty of physical activities planned. Tiring your child out will help them to get to sleep more easily, and hopefully they will sleep for longer in the morning too. This is a good start to having a suitable amount of sleep after the changes.
Remember to give your child a cup of milk before bedtime – it contains tryptophan which boost the serotonin levels in the body. Since serotonin is a natural sedative, it’s easy to see how this will help. If milk alone doesn’t seem to promote the right amount of sleepiness, give your child a banana too – the B6 present in the fruit helps the conversion from tryptophan to serotonin happen faster.
When you have put your child to bed, try showing them how to do some breathing exercises. This will relax them and help them get off to sleep more easily. There are many different exercises you can find online, so practice yourself first, and then teach your little ones. It’s good to find ones that will relax the entire body as well as clear the mind as sleep will come much more quickly.