Infant sleep is hard enough to plan for without something like daylight savings to make it even tougher. Pending early wakes, bedtime struggles can make any parent feel anxious, but a bit of advice can make it feel much more manageable. Here, our best advice on getting through the clocks rolling back with tips from midwife and certified toddler and baby sleep consultant Bianca Burge of Plan B Sleep Consulting.
Not for newborns
Fresh newborns (under three months) aren’t going to be affected by daylight savings beginning or ending because they don’t have a set routine. They’ll need lots of naps and comfort regardless of what’s happening with the clock.
Older babies and toddlers, different story
“The end of daylight savings can really cause a lot of issues for families,” says Bianca. In a nutshell, the end of daylight savings means our clocks will go back an hour, and little ones who previously went to bed at 7pm will now be tired by 6pm. That doesn't seem so bad, but it also means they’ll be waking up an hour earlier, and if you already have an early riser, that can make things hard. There’s a big difference between 6am and 5am. “Babies have biological sleep windows which are driven by the body's circadian rhythm. These natural dips in our energy are enhanced by melatonin which is our sleepy hormone and cortisol which increases at points through a 24 hour period. Daylight savings tends to mess with the natural rhythm of these sleep windows which are 9-10am, 12-2pm and 6-7pm. Once daylight savings we have to change the routine we have been focusing on over Summer, and obviously this will cause issues with sleep and early rising.” The good news, Bianca assures us, is that if you approach it the right way, it won't last long.
Pick your approach
Some children adapt really well to these changes and others really struggle. “I wholeheartedly believe how a child deals with sleep changes is based on their temperament, coupled with what their previous routine was and the predictability of it,” says Bianca, recommending two ways to approach it. First option, adjust their routine slightly each day until you are back on the new routine (making it 15 minutes earlier each evening, i.e. 6:15pm on Sunday 4 April, 6:30pm on Monday, 6:45pm on Tuesday and 7pm on Wednesday). Second option, put them to bed at the new time on the first day of daylight savings ending, Sunday 4 April. Choose based on what you think will work best for your child and how they usually handle bedtime, but whatever you choose, Bianca says the most important thing is to stick to it.
Your approach in practice.
The main issues that occur with daylight savings ending is children fighting naps and bedtime, wake ups in the night, and early rising. However you approach it, it’s likely at least some of these issues will occur but consistency is the key to getting through it. “Although they aren't used to this time yet, they will be,” says Bianca. “Don't introduce any new sleep associations for them to get to sleep at the new time. If you don’t usually lay with them, share a bed, don’t start now.
A good night routine
“The main routine I focus on is dinner, bath, book, bed,” says Bianca. “A structured routine that happens each night will encourage predictability, which children thrive on. Performing a wind-down is really important as well as it prompts children to what is about to happen.”
“Although the evenings will be darker, the mornings will be lighter and we want to avoid those early wakes, so I would suggest investing in some block out blinds as light also suppresses melatonin production,” says Bianca. She also suggests white noise, “It’s great for turning on the calming reflex, but also blocks any early morning stimulation such as birds or parents leaving for work.”