How to help your children sleep when the clocks go forward

Here’s how to help your children adjust to the clocks going forward [Photo: Getty]

Just when you think you’ve got your little one’s sleep routine sorted, something comes along and disrupts it… damn you daylight savings.

ICYMI, the clocks go forward this weekend. And while most of us aren’t happy about the loss of a precious Sunday morning hour, many parents are dreading the impact the change will have on their children‘s sleep.

To make matters worse, this sleep disruption is due to hit on Mother’s Day.

But before you sob into the Sudocrem, fear not. There are some simple sleep hacks you can do to help your children seamlessly adjust to their new bed and wake-times.

According to Lucy Shrimpton, The Sleep Nanny® and sleep expert at The Baby Show, parents have three options for coping with the clock change. 

Option 1: Cold turkey

“On Saturday evening get your little one off to bed an hour earlier than usual,” she says. “So, if bedtime is usually 7pm, this is about to become 8pm when the clocks go forward so tonight, 6pm is like 7pm. 

“If your child usually sleeps 12 hours from 7pm to 7am, you’ll still get the 12 hours from 6pm Saturday to 7am Sunday because we lose that hour in the night.”

READ MORE: 10% of children stay up past 10pm: Here’s how to get children to bed on time

Option 2: Gradual shift

“If you don’t think your little one will manage to settle to sleep an hour early on the Saturday evening, you could work towards it gradually over the preceding days as follows:

Assuming a usual bedtime of 7pm:
Wednesday bedtime is 6.45pm
Thursday bedtime is 6.30pm
Friday bedtime is 6.15pm
Saturday bedtime is 6.00pm

Then on Sunday, you go back to your usual 7pm bedtime which falls at the same time as 6pm was the night before. 

OK, so you may have missed the opportunity to fully put this one into practice this time, but if you think it will work its worth giving it a go for the next clock change.

Option 3: Meet in the middle

“The other option is to meet halfway and just put your little one to bed thirty minutes earlier than usual on the Saturday night,” suggests Lucy. 

“This helps move towards the new time and doesn’t reduce the overall night sleep hours by too much.
Then, on the Sunday you’re back to usual bedtime by the new clock time.”

And Lucy has a word of warning for parents who might be expecting a quick adjust.

“Remember, it may take up to a week for your little one to fully adjust and transition on to the new time so bear with it and if they’re really tired, just go ahead with an early night because the last thing you want is to create a continually overtired situation,” she says. 

READ MORE: Parents are losing a shocking amount of sleep in their child’s first year

Just when you’ve got their sleep routine sorted, the clocks change [Photo: Getty]

And there are some other tips parents can put in place to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.

Establish a good bedtime routine

Silentnight‘s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, is a firm believer that a regular bedtime routine is important for children, particularly when the clocks change. 

“Establishing a good bedtime routine is an integral part of your child’s development and helps to ensure they have a great night’s sleep,” she says. “I would advise a bath, then into bed with a book. Simple things like bathing your children, reading them a bedtime story and making sure the room is a comfortable temperature, are key to getting a good night’s sleep. This will result in your child being more alert, well rested and focused the next day, which can boost their schooling and play.”

Cut down screen time

Studies show screens emit a blue light that makes it hard for your brain to wind down. Dr Nerina recommends encouraging children to put down electronics at least an hour before bedtime.

“Research has proven that by having a constant stream of light enter our eyes before we go to sleep, we are actually telling our brains that we want to be awake,” she says. “An hour or so before children go to bed, rule out any blue light. This means no TV, tablets, mobile phones or anything else. Your child’s bedroom should always be a technology-free environment to encourage sleep.”

Make their bedroom sleep-friendly 

“Bedrooms need to be sleep-friendly, with a cool environment,” says Dr Nerina. “Freshly washed bedding, possibly lavender-fragranced, can make the room feel calming and relaxing.”