Yes, it’s THAT time of year again. Oh joy!
For children who are quite structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, the time change can cause a ‘sleep debt’ for a little while which is why it is most noticeable in babies and toddlers.
I detest time change more than many, because I see first hand the havoc it can wreak on the lives of families with young children. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make it a little easier on yourselves (hopefully) and the good news is that this time of year is the lesser of two evils when it comes to time change!
Here are a couple different approaches you can take, to make the transition with your babies or toddlers:
Option 1: Just pretend it doesn’t exist.
For those with older children or children who really have exceptional sleep habits and schedules already, it can often be better to just go with the ‘new clock’ immediately and have bedtime at 7:30 PM regardless of time change and whether it is Spring or the Fall. Just dive straight into it.
In this case, avoid changing the clocks before you go to bed. Just get up as though it is any other day; change your clocks at some point (after everyone is up) and go on with life as usual. This isn’t a perfect system but if there is one, I have never come across it!
Option 2: Gradually get them on the new clock.
If your child usually goes to bed at 7:30 PM, make bedtime 7 PM on the new clock on the first night following the time change (the Sunday). This will FEEL like 8:00 PM to your child but shouldn’t cause too much upheaval in patterns. For the next couple of nights, make bedtime 7:15 PM and then back to 7:30 PM.
Keep in mind that for about a week, they might be waking up earlier. If you have children over the age of two, who can understand consistent explanations, you can use a gro-clock or even a digital clock (cover up the numerals) and explain to them that anything before 7 AM is still night and that you will come to get them as soon as it is morning (7 AM). Set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30, it says 7:00 and let them get up a little earlier than normal knowing that by the end of the week they should be back on track and you can adjust the clock to read the regular time.
If you are dealing with a baby, you can expect that they are going to wake up at ‘their normal time’ for the first few days, until the adjustment period is over. The best thing to do is not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, and to try to wait a little longer for your ‘appropriate/ minimum awake time’ or the time that you normally set as your acceptable morning time.
Increase this in increments of 10 or 15 minutes every morning and by the end of the week, they will have adjusted to the new clock and be waking at their usual hour. So, if they normally slept until 6:30 AM, they may now be waking at 5:30 AM (on the new clock), so just try not to respond until 5:45 for the first couple days, then 6 AM and just increase your “going to get them in time” every day. By the end of the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and they will be waking up at their usual hour.
It might even take a couple of weeks, which is why I find all time change a real pain! Unfortunately, children are creatures of habit and we can’t expect them to understand or switch to the new time difference right away without some discord. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for it to take 4 weeks for ANYONE to truly adjust to changes in sleep, so do be patient.
Remember to admit to yourself that it’s not always going to be perfect. Don’t sweat it. Children take some time to adjust and adapt, just like we do. Be patient and consistent, while continuing to make sleep a priority for your family.
Hope that helps a wee bit. And Happy Hallowe’en too!!!