We don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but this weekend the clocks change… At least they ‘Spring Forward’ so we have one *less* hour to fill, but we know from experience that it can be difficult to manage the change at the best of times, never mind when we’re in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. To help anyone who is unsure about how to manage the time change this weekend, we have asked Katy @slumbertots for her top tips.
General Sleep Tips
Early bedtime – Early bedtimes are best to ensure that your child doesn’t get overtired. In children, overtiredness can manifest as more wired behaviour, so it’s important to get them to bed before this stage. Once you pass this point, it can be harder to get to sleep, and once achieved, sleep can be more restless. An ideal bedtime for babies and young children is around 7-7.30pm. Bedtime does not need to be set in stone, so you can always move it earlier if they seem tired or grumpy.
Have a bedtime routine – Consistency and predictability are really important to babies and children. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping – and that’s why creating a bedtime routine is so important. This is something that you can implement right from the start. The routine should last around 30 minutes ideally, and might be something like: Feed, bath, pyjamas, story, song, and into cot. Try and make it the same every time. The repetition and predictability are what let your child know that they will soon be falling asleep.
Sleep begets sleep – Skipping naps and late bedtimes will affect the next 24 hour cycle. Daytime sleep is just as important as night time sleep, skipping naps won’t help your child sleep better at night. If anything, less sleep will mean an overtired baby who is more restless and wakes earlier in the morning.
Darkness – Keeping the room dark will help settling to sleep and prevent early wake ups. Darkness promotes melatonin production, which is the hormone that helps us sleep. This becomes a bigger issue as we go into the summer, where even the smallest amount of light getting in as morning approaches, can cause early wake ups. A dark room for daytime sleep can also help with lengthening naps, as it avoids distractions.
Consistency – Whatever is happening at one sleep situation should ideally be happening at all sleep situations to send a clear message to baby about what is expected. Babies and children learn by repetition – so their brain and body understand “every time I go to this place, I sleep”. If you’re able to put your baby down to sleep in the same place as much as possible, ideally in the cot, this will help them to fall asleep more easily as they know what they’re supposed to do when they are put down. With things as they are at the moment, it’s a good time to practice naps in the cot.
Tips for Older Children
In these challenging times, I think we have to accept that our kids will probably be having more screen time than we’d like. Just try and keep it to earlier in the day, and keep the 1-2 hours before bed screen free. This ensures easier settling to sleep and makes it easier to stay asleep for longer.
Stick to your usual bedtime routine, more than ever things that are familiar are important at this time. Kids thrive on structure and predictability so they need their routine.
Stick to your usual bedtime (3 – 5 year olds need an average of 10-13 hours sleep per 24 hours, and 6-13 year olds need 9-11 hours). They will need their sleep more than ever at this time and you need some time to yourself at the end of the day. Win win!
Create a relaxing sleep environment – might be a good project for the daytime to declutter. If the environment is too distracting or cluttered, it can make it harder to fall asleep. The room should also be as dark as possible, if using a night light, red or yellow are the best colours, avoid blue and white light as they interfere with melatonin production.
Get them outside for some fresh air and exercise. Sunlight will help keep their body clock in check, which helps at bedtime. Fresh air and exercise always aid sleep, and these will really help when we’re all cooped up more than usual and moving about less.
Avoid caffeine and sugary foods too close to bedtime, as these are stimulants and will make it harder to settle off to sleep.
Many children struggle with anxiety, and if your children are aware of what’s going on currently or missing their friends, they may be unusually anxious. Try to find time to talk with them during the days about their concerns, rather than doing this just before bed. Breathing exercises as part of the bedtime routine can help to calm them at bedtime.
Older Children – My best advice for children to help them with the change is to split the difference with the old time and the new time. How does that work? If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7pm, you would put them to bed at 7:30pm on Sunday night, the first night of the time change. Do this for 3 nights, then on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time of 7pm.
Toddlers – If you have a toddler aged one or older, on Sunday the first day of the time change, put them down for the first nap 30 minutes later than normal. So if they nap at 9:30am, you would put them down at 10am. You would do the same with the afternoon nap if there is one. For bedtime, if the normal bedtime is 7pm, then bedtime should be 7:30pm. Do this for 3 nights after the time change. Then on the 4th night, bedtime should be 7pm and on the 5th day move nap times back to normal time.
Babies 6-12 months – If your baby’s bedtime is around the same time every day, move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. So the first night (Sunday night), if bedtime is normally 7pm you would put them down at 7:45pm, the second night 7:30pm, and so on. In four nights you should be back to 7pm. Do the same with nap times. 15 minutes earlier each day. If their bedtime is not predictable, (often 0-6 months old, but sometimes older) simply jump to the new time on Sunday night. It may take your little ones a bit more time to fall asleep, and this is normal. This is because they won’t be quite as tired. It usually takes around a week for children to completely adjust to the new time, and for some children it can take a bit longer, but be patient and consistent, it will happen.
It can also be helpful to darken your child’s room, as they may start to wake early with the sun rising so early in the morning. They may also struggle to fall asleep while it’s still light outside. So darkening the room can be helpful. Even though there are extra hours of daylight, your child will still need the same amount of sleep.