At 3am on Sunday 4 April this year, we’re lucky that most phones, computers and digital clocks will go back an hour automatically, but it’s a little harder to adjust our body clocks and therefore the sleeping habits for our little ones. While it’s easier for adults to adapt to new wake up and bed-times – especially if they’re already a little sleep deprived – it can be harder to adjust for our young children and babies.
Here are three tips to get your child ready for Daylight Savings, be it beginning or ending. For us in NSW, for the purpose of relevancy, we’ll be using examples for the end of Daylight Savings this Easter Sunday.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Daylight should make little difference to a baby that has been taught the skills to put itself to sleep. Following a set routine at evening bedtime, such as dinner, bathing and cleaning teeth followed by a quiet activity like reading a book and then a final goodnight, can help your child associate these activities with sleep. This makes it easier to adjust to a new time schedule when they can recognise the activities or items that signify that they’re getting ready for bed. This also makes the change in the clocks easier to adjust to – even if it’s an hour earlier or later, your child will recognise the routine or cues that signify that it’s bed time.
Start Preparing Early
In the week leading up to the end of Daylight Savings, adjust your baby’s routine incrementally so that by the time the clocks move back, it’s not such a huge adjustment and you stand more chance of a gentle shift in your household rather than an abrupt change.
For example, on the Tuesday night before Daylight savings ends (we’ll call this Day 1), wait to feed your baby their last bottle ten minutes later than usual, then if, for example, their bedtime is usually at 7pm, put them to bed at 7:10pm. On Wednesday morning, get them up when they wake up, but if they don’t wake then get them up at 7:20am and feed them. If they do wake up earlier, try not to feed them until this time.
Don’t worry if you do need to feed them earlier in the mornings! Give yourself some peace and adjust the feeds throughout the day - you’ll get back on track with the adjustment as the day goes by. On Wednesday night, try to put them to bed at 7:20pm. Repeat this for Thursday, trying not to wake or feed them until 20 minutes later than usual, with a bed-time 30 minutes later than usual at 7:30pm. On Friday, you should be aiming for 30 minutes later for the morning routine and a 7:40pm bed-time. Finally, by Saturday, you should be aiming to rise 40 minutes later with a 7:50pm bedtime, so that with the clocks changing from 3am back to 2am on Sunday morning, you’ll be back to a 7pm bed-time. Again, try not to feed them until 7am so that you can get back into a routine with the change in times.
Make it Easier for Yourself
Sleep patterns are controlled by our body’s internal clock, which keeps us awake during the day and promotes sleep at night by coordinating the release of a hormone called melatonin, which tells our bodies that it’s time to sleep. A wind-down period before bedtime can help your child transition from playtime to sleep. Quiet activities, such as looking at books, telling your child a story or playing some soft music, can help them feel calm, relaxed and sleepy.
Physical activity and play during the day will also help your child use up energy so they’re less likely to be restless at bedtime. Encourage some playtime outdoors, as exposure to sunlight helps to synchronise their body clock, which helps regulate sleep.
If you decide to prepare early like we suggested above, use lighting to help your child adjust to the new times. If you’re going to bed later, keep bright lights on later each evening until you are ready to start your bub’s sleep routine, and keep the room dark in the morning until you are ready to start their day.
Remember, what's going to work for each family is entirely different. The good news is, within a week or two, baby, toddler, and you will adjust to the time change naturally. While we’ve done our best to provide accurate information, it is impossible to cover every situation, so please consult with a health professional if you are in doubt about your baby’s health or behaviour – a blog can never be used as a substitute for an individual professional consultation.
Daylight Savings ends on Sunday 4 April 2021.