While some children barely blink with a change in bedtime, the reality for the majority of families is that daylights savings brings disrupted sleep for everyone involved!
Sunday 1st of October 2017 is the start of day light saving. This means that clock time is an hour later, so 7am is now 8am and 7pm is now 8pm and from a practical perspective, there is more light in the evening.
Newborn babies aren’t usually affected by the change in clock time as their circadian rhythms haven’t developed but for older children, it generally takes about a week or so to adjust to the new sleeping times. Here are a few survival tips for getting your child back into routine as quickly as possible.
1. Move bedtime gradually
Springing forward as it’s sometime referred, can be a harder transition since you will be asking your child to sleep an hour before their usual sleep time AND when it is still light outside. Since our bodies are designed to be wide awake just before sleep (this is called the Wake Maintenance Zone) you will need to shift sleep gradually so that you aren’t asking your child to sleep when they aren’t biologically able to! A common shift would be to move your baby’s wake up and bed time earlier by say 15 minutes each day for 4 days before the change. For example, if your baby usually goes to bed at 7:00 PM, you would then put them down at 6:45, 6:30, 6:15, 6:00 PM, which by the Sunday night is the “new” 7:00 PM. You would then do the same thing in the morning.
2. Control the light
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body's internal circadian clock. As it becomes dark outside in the evening, melatonin levels increase which in turn helps induce sleep. Given that you will be putting your child to bed when it is now light outside, try and have the room lights dim in the early evening to help start to promote melatonin release. If your child is really struggling to fall asleep, this might be the time to invest in some block-out blinds to make the room darker.
If your child has been waking early in the lead up to daylights saving, the change in clock time might be enough to switch them in to a more reasonable wake up time! If you find though that she is still waking at 5.00 AM and thinking it’s time to start the day, again this is the time to use block-out blinds to keep her room as dark as possible to give her circadian rhythm a chance to catch up.
3. Keep bedtime routines consistent
One of the biggest challenges for the start of day light savings is convincing your child to sleep when it looks like daytime outside. Make sure that your bedtime routine is both consistent and sleep conducive (think quiet reading time rather than roughhousing!). If your child was setting independently, try to avoid introducing a new sleep association, such as lying down or sitting with your toddler, as they adapt to this new bedtime.
4. Dates for the Change Over
NOTE: Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory do not observe daylight saving.
Kate has a Ph.D. in Sleep Psychophysiology from the University of Melbourne and has worked in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and their 4 small children and now runs Babysomnia where she takes a mother- and family -centric approach to getting better sleep. If you need any help with your baby’s sleep visit her website (www.babysomnia.com) to book a one-on-one consultation and like her on Facebook