Time Change

The time change: how to adjust your baby’s sleep

What would help?

In advance of the clocks going back when we wake on Sunday October 30th, I encourage parents not to worry; but to also be aware of some strategies that can be considered so that your established sleeper continues to sleep well or at the very least that sleep is minimally disturbed at this time. 

Know that it can take a few days and as long as a week for the body, both adults and children alike, to adjust to a different mood lighting caused by the change and the fact that our natural body clock is being challenged.

It is always helpful if your child can enter this transition as well rested a possible, but I acknowledge that many children may have been under the weather and some routinely struggle with their sleep, so this can be hard to achieve.  That said, we can always help make changes to encourage better sleep.

  • It can be helpful to do nothing. You and your child can immediately follow the time once the clock changes. If your child historically wakes at 7am and goes to bed around 7pm, the day the clock changes it will say 6am, but it is no different to the day before. Stick to the same schedule- wake no later than 730am “new time” if applicable and put to bed at their typical bedtime for example:  when the clock says 7pm, but that will really be 8pm. This is a perfect solution for babies and toddlers who are not sensitive to being over-tired and highly adaptable, they adjust within a few days and re-settle into the same schedule they have been on before the change.

  • Or the second option is to slowly change your child’s schedule over the course of a few days before the time change. For example, on Wednesday 26th October, 4 days prior to the time change, put your child to bed 15 minutes later than normal in the hope that he wakes 15 minutes later in the morning-this is determined by our internal clock, so may not always happen.  Proceed to offer his naps and meals 15 minutes later. For the next few days put him to bed 15 minutes later each night until the night of the time changes and you will be back to your normal timetable and no further adjustment are required.  You will know your own child best and if typically, they are “slow to adapt” this gradual approach may be the preferred option for you.

  • Alternatively, wait until Sunday and then, you can split the difference, between the old and the new time-continue with your normal schedule and then on the actual day, be flexible and alter the schedule as much as your child can handle. I find that a half-way meeting between the “old” time and the “new” time works well; on Sunday naps and bedtime would be offered 30 minutes later than normal.  So, they might go to bed at 7pm and this would have been 7.30pm on the day before, so 30 minutes beyond their typical bedtime adjusting meals and naps accordingly.

Addressing the morning, after the time change

On the first 2 mornings after the time change avoid starting the day before 5/530am “new time” (this would have been 6/6.30 am the day before) and then from Tuesday morning onwards treat any wake before 6.00am “new time “as nighttime and proceed on that basis hereafter.  Always have a predictable response so that you do not ingrain early waking going forward.  Use my stay and support approach as appropriate. 

Some parents may continue to struggle with earlier than usual waking and then struggle with nap placements- if your child is a robust sleeper already- at least 8 months plus, try to maintain your naps after 9am and 1.30pm.  Temporarily you may need to revert to naps in 8am’s but as quickly as possible revert to 9am +.  

If you child is on a single nap already. Then the ideal time for this nap is 1pm.  If the early waking makes this hard then bring forward to 12pm and then adjust towards 1pm over a few more days.  If your child is super-tired before 10am then provide a 20m “filler nap” and the main nap about 3 hours later, so that the wake time of the single nap can complement bedtime and avoid an unnecessary ongoing early morning presentation. 

Whatever you decide to do, acknowledge that it can take about a week plus for the body to get used to any kind of change in sleeping habits and as a result you can expect your days and potentially your nights to be a little off. 

Don’t try to make the time change do anything for you- as in you are not looking for a later bedtime or a later wake time- you just want to be on the same structure as you were by the end of the week or so.

If your child does not routinely sleep well then it is a good opportunity to consider making some changes that may help-and develop a plan to help you achieve your sleep goals- see www.lucywolfesleepplans.com to create an appropriate plan. 

Important points to keep in mind

  • Decide on which option suits your family unit and child’s temperament best to help with this transition
  • The time change can have a more significant impact, regardless of the strategy on children who are not well-rested to begin with resulting in crankiness, early morning waking, night waking and short naps
  • Continue to pay attention to your child’s-tired signals and act, accordingly, being unafraid of an earlier bedtime if necessary
  • Have a consistent response if they are struggling to sleep and avoid ingraining sleeping tendencies that you may need to address in the future