The UK will be moving our clocks back by an hour next Sunday (27th October) to mark the end of British Summertime (Daylight Saving Time). Where perviously you might have looked forward to an extra hour in bed, there is no such luxury for parents of tricky sleepers!
I always receive lots of emails and messages from parents worried about how the change will alter their child’s schedule and their sleep. Will the clock change mean that the previous 5am wake ups will become 4am?? Eek!
So to help you navigate the clock change with ease, I’ve outlined below three different methods which you could use. I’ve also included my top tips for managing the Clock Change which ever method you decide to use. Scroll down and be prepared for next weekend. Don’t worry, you’ve got this covered!
Number 1 – The Simple Switch
The easiest method to try is the Simple Switch. Rather than trying to adjust your child’s schedule gradually, this method only requires you to alter bedtime on the night that the clocks are going to change (Saturday 26th). If your child’s bedtime is normally 7pm, simply keep your child up for an extra hour and make bedtime 8pm for Saturday night only.
When the clocks change during the night and we gain an hour, so in theory, your child should still wake at their usual morning time and still have had his usual amount of sleep.
Then, on Sunday night (after the clocks have changed), you go back to your normal regular bedtime (in this example 7pm). Simple!
Word of Warning – You may have difficulty with the Simple Switch if your child struggles to stay awake for an extra hour on Saturday night without becoming too over-tired and grumpy. This tiredness could contribute to night wakings or a very early waking in the following few days.
If you think that your child is likely to find this extra hour awake difficult, then you could add in an extra nap (if they are still napping), reintroduce a nap for this one day, or add in some real quiet time during the afternoon to see them through.
Alternatively, you could try the Split the Difference technique…
Number 2 – Split the Difference
With this easy method you simply put your child to bed 30 minutes late on Saturday night, rather than stretching it out by the full hour in the Simple Switch method. This reduces the risk of overtiredness.
Using this method, if your child’s normal bedtime is 7pm, you would keep them up until 7.30pm on Saturday night instead. He may wake a little bit early on Sunday morning, but you will soon get back into rhythm very quickly. On Sunday, after the clocks have changed, you return to the child’s normal bedtime (in this case 7pm) and continue as normal.
This method lets you bridge the clock change by moving just 30 minutes instead of the full hour.
An alternative approach for younger children or more sensitive sleepers is The Gradual Shift.
Number 3 – The Gradual Shift
The third option is the Gradual Shift. This requires a little more effort and management from you, but it means that your child gradually moves to the new time over the 4 nights leading up to the clock change.
To do this, you will need to start on Wednesday night (23rd October) and move their normal bedtime back by 15 minutes. For example if your child’s bedtime is normally 7pm, you would move it back to 7.15pm on Wednesday.
Then on Thursday you move back by another 15 minutes, so in this example bedtime would be 7.30pm.
Then on Friday you move back by a further 15 minutes (to 7.45pm) before moving a final 15 minutes on Saturday (to 8pm in this case).
This means you are gradually moving bedtime back by 15 minutes over the course of 4 nights, so that your child is actually going to bed a whole hour later than normal on Saturday.
After the clock change in the early hours of Sunday, you simply return to your normal 7pm bedtimes again from Sunday night onwards.
Word of warning – Some children can struggle with this approach as they find it confusing to be constantly shifting their bedtime, whereas others need this gradual creep to reach the later bedtime. If you have a very young child or a particularly sensitive sleeper, you may need to also move feed or meal times back by 15 minutes each day too.
Think about which approach will best suit your child and their individual sleep needs to choose the method that will work best for you. Then take a look at my top tips below to really glide through the clock change next weekend.
Clock Change Top Tips
Plan ahead – Think about your child’s personality and usual sleep pattern. Will they cope with staying up one hour extra? Would it better to split the change into 2 steps? Or do they need a gradual creep during the week? Create a plan that suits your child and your family, and stick to it.
Prioritise naps – For younger children (particularly those aged under 4), you need to make naps a priority during this time change. Ensure that your child is well-napped during the day so that when the clocks change, the later bedtime doesn’t feel as much of an issue. If they don’t nap any more, add in periods of quiet play and relaxation in dim lighting.
Between naps, make sure that your child is exposed to plenty of natural light. Open the curtains, take a walk, or just play outside. If you find that your child is still having trouble with sleep even after a good day of naps, you may need to temporarily add in an extra cat nap to help make sure that they aren’t overtired at bedtime. Make sure that this extra nap is no longer than an hour and is not too close to bedtime.
Good old bedtime routine – Nothing signals bedtime better than your trusty sleep routine. Even though you may be adjusting bedtimes slightly, make sure that you still follow your soothing routine before naps and bedtime, to signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to wind down to sleep. Close the curtains, dim the lights, follow your routine, and snuggle down.
Resettle early waking – The Autumn clock change can lead to early morning waking for a few days, particularly where a child was already a fairly early riser before the change. 6am becomes 5am and no one wants to start their day at 5am!
Respond to these awakenings and gently resettle your child back to sleep as though it were still the middle of the night. Be careful to make sure that your child is actually awake before you go in – you don’t want to disturb them by going in too soon! Finally, don’t be tempted to get them up when they wake super early. The problem will snowball and the waking will become earlier and earlier each day. Resettle them as though it is the middle of the night, and don’t be tempted to get up until it’s your normal morning time.
Back to Black – Consider using blackout blinds or curtains to maintain darkness in your child’s room and help them to sleep more soundly. Although the days are getting shorter, there may be some natural light around that could be enough to disrupt your little ones sleep. Blackout blinds are especially great for early waking and may be enough to ease them through the troublesome early starts.
Get outdoors! Your child may have a little difficulty re-setting their body clock (circadian rhythm) at first. Help them by getting outside in natural daylight for 20 -30 minutes each day (preferably in the morning) to help them to adjust to the time change and reset their body clock. Wrap up warm, head outdoors and go for a walk or a play in the daylight. Try doing this for the first week or so after the clock change and feel the difference it makes to your day! (This tip is also really great for adults to follow too)
So there you have it – three different methods for managing the Autumn Clock Change and lots of tips to use too. With a little thought and planning, you can move through the clock change with ease!
If you are having difficulty with you child’s sleep, you can book a free 15-minute Introductory Call with me by clicking here
Rachael, The Sleep Sanctuary
The Sleep Sanctuary is a Children’s Sleep Consultancy supporting tired parents to help their children sleep soundly and live healthier, happier lives