How to sleep through the clock change - top tips for children and parents

Do you dread the clock change and the prospect of distrupted sleep for your little ones, and you? Follow our tips to help everyone sleep peacefully when the clocks change

How to cope with the UK clock change

The clock change, when the time is adjusted twice a year to compensate for the different seasons, can be a date that parents dread as it can lead to lack of sleep all round.

When Is The UK Clock Change?

In the UK the clocks go forward 1 hour at 1am on the last Sunday in March, and back 1 hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October.

The period when the clocks are 1 hour ahead is called British Summer Time (BST). This is when there is more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings. It is sometimes called Daylight Saving Time.

When the clocks go back, the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

The Clock Change: When You're A Parent

For parents with children, especially very young ones, the challenges of dealing with the clock change and adjusting to any kind of new schedule for sleep can be daunting.

It can be tricky to get your children into any kind of sleep routine, any often even very little changes you make to this can result in distrucpted sleep for everyone.

Here are ten tips to help out children and parents and hopefully ensure a smooth transition and lots of sleep all round.

Ten Tips To Help Kids Adjust To The Clock Change


1. Adjust Bedtime Gradually The Week Before

Getting children to go to bed to get the full amount of sleep they need isn't easy, as all parents will tell you! Children won’t automatically be ready for bed one hour before their body clock naturally tells them it is time for bed, whatever time it says it is.

The solution for the spring clock change is to stagger the hour change in smaller steps so it’s not such a big shock on the Sunday.

For babies and toddlers who aren’t at school, try changing bedtime in 10-minute increments bringing the bedtimes and nap times forward by 10 minutes each day. The adjustment would start the week before so by the time it gets to the weekend of the clock change, your little ones will hopefully already adjust to British Summer Time.

For children at nursery school, start a couple of days before, and try to bring bedtimes forward by 20 minutes each time.

The key is to make sure you and your family are already partly, if not fully, adjusted to the new time when you wake up on the Sunday, rather than sleep deprived having lost an hour on Saturday night. This will make it easier to get everyone to bed on time on Sunday night so you can wake up refreshed for the start of the new week on Monday morning.

2. Adjust Your Daily Routines Too

If you have a timed routine, over the days you change bedtime, be sure to change bath time, nap time and mealtimes in line with the new bedtime. If the bedtime changes are gradual, then change the other activities by the same time too.

3. Watch What They Eat And Drink Before Sleep

Be careful with what your child eats close to bedtime, as food and drinks that contain lots of sugar can affect the ability to fall asleep. Milk contains tryptophan, which the brain needs to make serotonin, a natural sedative and the building block of Melatonin, our sleep hormone. This works best when the milk is drunk warm with honey as per the old folk remedy. If they need a later snack, then a banana with milk provides vitamin B6, which helps convert the tryptophan to serotonin. A turkey or chicken sandwich is another combination to consider.

4. Use Blackout Blinds

After the change, ensure that windows have blackout blinds or curtains, as evenings stay lighter later, and it will be more difficult to convince them it’s wind-down time.

5. Get Active!

Any physical activity will make it easier to get children to bed earlier as they will be more tired. Playing and exercising outside in the day is even better as the bright light helps reinforce the distinction between day and night. Or try swimming, bike rides or walks.

6. Use The Time To Reset

If you have an early riser the clocks going forward can be a good time to readjust your child. For example, if your child is constantly waking at 5.30am you could choose to completely leave them and not do any staggered steps prior to the clocks changing. So, a child waking at 5.30am then becomes 6.30am (in theory) when the clocks change.

7. Help Your Children To Relax

Stress and an active brain keep us awake, so it can be helpful to teach your children relaxation exercises. For example, tensing and relaxing each limb/muscle of their body in sequence will help them to learn how to let go of tension and bring their focus into their body. Also teach them to breath from their diaphragm by placing your hand on their belly as they breath in and out. This will help them relax and get off to sleep more easily. Yoga can also help relax them.

8. Try Mindfulness Or Relaxing Music

Mindfulness or relaxing music can help at bedtime, too. Try listening to a guided meditation, like Cosmic Kids Yoga Peace Outs. White noise while they are trying to sleep can also help, and you can find static noise or rain sounds on music apps such as Spotify, Apple Music or on YouTube.

9. But Don’t Stress If It Doesn’t Go To Plan!

It’s worth trying a gradual change, but if go doesn’t go fully to plan, try not to worry too much. Follow their natural cues about when to start bedtime. Everyone will adjust eventually.

10. Make Sure You Relax Too!

Make sure you take time out to relax and help your body adjust too. Even if you can’t get more sleep, relaxing during the day can help.

Let us know if you try the tips! Make sure you also read our quick health hacks for parents and stories from sleep-deprived mums and dads

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