Top sleep-saving tips as daylight saving comes to an end

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The smell of sunblock is a distant memory and autumn’s well and truly here. Lulling us into a false sense of security with its beautiful colours and early evenings, we all of a sudden remember… daylight saving is coming to an end!

Are you worried about how your child is going to cope with the change? Shifting bed times can be hard work and not just for our little ones! By knowing how your child might react and having a few strategies up your sleeve, you’ll be better equipped to handle what’s thrown at you.

Here’s our advice for preparing your child for the end of daylight saving time (and avoiding tricky bedtimes, early wake-ups and grizzles!).

Spring forward, fall back
When does daylight saving officially end? Before you hit the hay on Saturday 6 April, turn all the clocks at your place back by one hour. This part always hurts our heads, right? Just so we’re all clear - this means when you wake up on Sunday, 7am will now be 6am and 7pm will now be 6pm. That’s right - Sunday is going to be longer than usual!

Does your child’s sleep environment need help?
A great sleep environment is key to everyone getting the sleep they need. Making sure your child’s room is dark is essential, especially when the clocks go back. Many mums and dads swear by simple black out blinds for keeping their kids asleep as mornings get lighter. Or you can always secure a dark coloured sheet or blanket to your current curtains or blinds.

Now’s also an ideal time to check your child’s winter bedding and pyjamas. Are the cooler mornings waking them up? Choose natural fibres like cotton and merino as they help your child’s body regulate its temperature, regardless of whether it’s warm or cold out.   

If you’re struggling to keep your child in bed in the morning (and they’re suitably toasty in bed) then a sleep clock could be what you need. The idea is that your child stays in bed until the clock signals (normally by changing colour) that it’s time to get out of bed.

Return to a strong routine
Has your bedtime routine slipped a little over the summer months? Now is the perfect time to refine yours in preparation for the end of daylight saving. Children love routine. It gives them something to hold onto when life becomes a bit unpredictable, and they’ll relax more if they know what’s coming next. A consistent schedule sends a signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and bedtime is near.

The key is having a routine you can commit to each day. If you don’t have time or the energy to read three books every night then don’t commit to that. Let your child know it’s one story and then into bed. Once they know, they’ll be more accepting.

Some ideas of what to include in a routine are: dinner, bath, massage, stories/a story told verbally/recapping the day, a bottle/feed/drink of water, any comforting items such as a cuddly toy or dummy, lavender sleep spray, a song or special phrase.

Changes to make the week before daylight saving ends
“The less children hear about the change in time, the less likely they will be to react to it,” says New Zealand’s top baby whisperer Dorothy Waide. “Remember, if you are travelling through different time zones it takes a day for every hour difference to adjust, therefore with this theory it should only take one day to adjust to daylight saving.”

Some parents put the clocks back, don’t mention the change to their children, keep their rooms as dark as possible and everything goes swimmingly! Because this doesn’t always work out, here are two other ways to approach the transition.

Is your child relaxed about most things, can sleep anywhere, anytime, doesn’t bat an eyelid when you head away on holiday and their sleep environment changes? Then you might choose to deal with the transition in one go rather than several smaller changes.

What this looks like: On Saturday night put them to bed an hour later (8pm rather than 7pm for example). In the morning they’ll (hopefully!) wake at the new time of 7am which is 8am old time. From here on in you can keep their awake times the same and your nap schedule should be all set to roll out as normal.

Does your child struggle to get to sleep, wake early, find sleep transitions hard, is more sensitive and affected by lack of sleep? Try making slow incremental changes to support them through this period.

In practice, this means you could try shifting your child’s wake and sleep times by 15 minutes every day for the four days prior to the end of daylight saving, which looks something like this:

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How to handle early wake ups calmly
You’re all ready to pat yourself on the back after a great sleep transition when your child continues waking at 6am when they used to wake at 7am! Firstly, don’t panic, it’s normal to have a few bumpy days after a change like this. Just because they’re awake doesn’t mean they need you to get them out of bed. If they are getting upset then you could encourage them to stay in bed by giving them some books to look at quietly. With confidence, explain to them that you’ll be back when it’s time to get up.

Once it’s time to get out of bed, make sure you support the reestablishment of their internal circadian rhythm by creating a bright morning environment so their body learns that this IS the new wake up time.

This too will pass….
In the lead up to daylight saving ending, it’s easy to worry about how the transition will play out at your place. Trying some of the tips above could help your family approach it more calmly and easily. Remember, if you’re suffering from a lack of sleep, ask for help from friends and family and be kind to yourself, in a short time life will be back to normal.