When the clocks go back in October it can feel like the whole flow of bedtime is interrupted. You and your little one both know the score; you have a way you do things and it works. Then all of a sudden it feels like bedtime, but the clock says there’s still an hour left to go! How can you stop the clocks going back from creating sleep chaos?
Well, there’s plenty of options; the trick is recognising which ones will work best for your family.
1. Make the change over weeks before clocks go back
If you want to avoid a big change on the day the clocks go back, make the change to sleep time over weeks. Avoid overtired, and somehow reinvigorated children by making the shift gradually. Push bedtime back by ten or 15 minutes every few days, so that they are already going to sleep an hour later on by the time the clocks go back. This gradual shift can help ease you gently into prolonging bedtime.
2. Do something on the day.
On the day the clocks go back take the opportunity to do something fun together for that extra hour before sleep. Whether you read a whole heap of stories on the sofa; do an infant massage; take a relaxing warm bath together; bake; or go for an evening welly walk; enjoy the time rather than clock watching and wishing you could put them to bed. You can hope the extra activity tires them out for a super easy bedtime. Well, it’s a nice thought at least!
3. Keep calm: don’t let the clocks going back disrupt your sleep!
I mean this is the key to so much of parenting life really, isn’t it? It is especially important when it comes to bedtime. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to ensure your little one won’t sleep, it’s you being wound up! Kids find it harder to relax when they can sense your stress. The clocks going back causing disruption to the predictability and rhythm of your life can really affect calm, and so affect sleep! However, if you can snuggle up and relax and they’ll be asleep before you know it!
4. Sensory soothing sleep tips
Create a calm environment and calming rituals. If your bedtime routine has never been all that great then use this as a time to change it. When we want to calm our children it can help to think of all eight senses.
Make sure they’re not hungry, thirsty or really need the loo. These physical sensory issues can really mess with sleep! Clocks going back messes with the relation between eating, toileting, and sleep; so checking whether they have any unmet physical needs can help when it comes to bedtime.
Using an oil diffuser to create a smell that your child associates with bedtime can help with conditioning your child to calm. It takes time to condition any cues; however, in time just smelling that smell will help them feel calmer and more ready to sleep.
Whether from breast, bottle, or a cup, milk is one of the earliest tastes your baby will associate with drifting off to sleep. Lots of parents are wary of feeding to sleep, but if it works for you, there’s no problem with it. If it doesn’t, then you can still use the sleepy power of milk a little earlier in your routine. For older children you may want to include a suppertime snack of something containing the amino acid tryptophan. The body uses this in the production of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy when it gets darker. It may help us get to sleep more easily. It is found in bananas, wholegrain cereals, oats, seeds, nuts and, of course, milk.
Bedtime stories, relaxing music such as alpha music, white noise or relaxing sounds, or gentle shushing. You can sing or play music to your little ones. You may find that using the same music or sounds each night helps to condition your child to sleep easily. The BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm CDs contain white noise and alpha music tracks that may help your little one drift off gently!
Blackout blinds or curtain linings tend to create a dark room for sleeping in. They’re really helpful to avoid your little one waking “an hour earlier” in the morning as it gets lighter an hour earlier. They’re great for keeping the room dark at bedtime year round. If you don’t have any, now could be the time to invest. Avoid blue light (screens emit lots of blue light; this can inhibit melatonin production by tricking our eyes into thinking it is still light. Of all artificial lights, red is the least disruptive to sleep, so a red night light, if you need one is best to avoid sleep disruption.
This can be a soft comforter or blanket, your warm arms, or gentle pats or strokes to help them doze off. All babies and children will have preferences, some will love to be held, and some will want a cuddle and then to roll away, some love the weight of your arm resting over them, and some like to be stroked gently, find out what works for your little one and use it to put the final touches to your calming bedtime atmosphere. You can even make massage a part of your bedtime routine if you want.
Whilst babies may love to be swaddled, they’re not the only people who find being wrapped up snug helps them to sleep. Toddlers, children, even adults can find wrapping, which stimulates the proprioceptive sense, soothing. Tucking them in may help them snuggle to sleep when the clocks go back.
Babies love to be rocked, as everyone knows. Again though, older children too, can find gentle motion soothes them to sleep. Working on the vestibular sense; motion, such as, rocking in a rocking chair, or swaying on a birth ball can help sleep come more easily when the clocks go back.
For more sensory sleep cues read our article: Simple sensory sleep tools to improve baby sleep (and yours too!)
5. Consider your bedtime too: clocks going back doesn’t mean more sleep!
If only it did! OK, you’ve got your child to sleep perhaps an hour later. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will sleep that hour later too, even with the black out blinds! Don’t rely on getting that ‘extra hour’ of sleep we’re promised when the clocks go back, in the morning. So, if you want to be ready for whatever hour they wake up bank the extra hour by not moving your bedtime an hour later!
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