Worried about losing sleep when the clocks go back? While much of the population will enjoy an extra hour in bed, anyone with young children will know that the clock change can play havoc with their sleep routines.
If you’re dreading early mornings and unsettled bedtimes, there are some simple steps you can take to help your little one sync with the new season.
Dave Gibson, Warren Evans bed makers’ sleep expert is a qualified naturopath, osteopath and hypnotherapist. Here, he provides top sleep tips for helping children adjust to the extra hour.
1. BED TIME
Moving bedtime can be tough for anyone, but especially young children. Try to plan it over the course of a week or at least a weekend, depending on your little one’s age and their usual temperament.
If you have a baby, aim to push bedtime back by 10 minutes each day. The gradual change will be more manageable than one large, sudden change. An extra power-nap in the late afternoon might be needed for very young babies.
For other young children, it’s often easier to change the bedtime in 15-minute increments over a long weekend (Fri-Sun), so that it doesn’t affect the school or nursery run.
And to help you settle into your new sleep pattern, try transitioning the time you go to bed by half an hour.
2. GET IN SYNC
Changing bedtime will only work if you also adjust the rest of their routine. As their bedtime shifts, make sure you change bath time, naptime and mealtime to match the new routine.
If the bedtime changes are gradual – say 10 minutes over 6 days – then move the other activities forwards by 10 minutes as well. And don’t forget about you! Be sure to adjust your own schedule in the same way you change your children’s so that everyone is in sync.
3. BEAT THE EARLY RISER
If you have a child who is naturally an early-riser, consider making smaller changes over a great amount of days so that you can fully account for that extra hour.
If you have a late-riser instead, you may find moving the bedtime back by half an hour rather than an hour will be more helpful. This will give you more time to get ready in the mornings and a long lie-in at the weekends.
4. PROMOTE GOOD HABITS AMONG OLDER CHILDREN
If your child is older (around school age and up), they will be able to understand that the clock change means they are gaining an extra hour. However, helping them stick to a healthy sleep routine is still important. The most crucial factor is ensuring they properly wind down in the evenings, ready for a deep, quality night’s sleep. Encourage them to ditch the mobile phone (put it on to charge in another room) and take a book to bed instead!
5. ACCOUNT FOR THE HOUR
Feel like there’s too much extra time in the evening? Try stretching out the additional hour by making bath time longer, doing some gentle exercises together or reading another bedtime story (or two!). Make the most of daytime by keeping lights bright and curtains open as long as possible to encourage children to stay awake.
6. BEDROOM ENVIRONMENT
In the night, keep the temperature cool and use black out blinds to ensure the bedroom is completely dark to provide the best environment for good quality sleep. Black out blinds should also stop children being woken up too early by morning light.
7. EAT RIGHT
When helping children wind down, always be mindful of what your child eats close to bedtime. Steer them away from drinks that contain caffeine and anything that contains lots of sugar as these will mean an untimely energy boost.
If you’re looking for a bedtime snack, try banana, cherries or milk. Milk contains tryptophan, which increases the amount of serotonin a natural sedative, and is absorbed better if eaten with a carbohydrate. This is why a lot of old folk remedies include warm milk and honey. A banana with milk provides vitamin B6, which helps convert the tryptophan to serotonin. Another fruit to consider is cherries as they contain melatonin, which the body produces to regulate sleep.
8. TIME ACTIVITY
Plan days with heavy activity – particularly physical activity – in the morning and then a more relaxed, calm afternoon for the days on which you are moving the bedtime later.
If your child is finding it hard to drift off, try relaxation exercises to help your children to get themselves off to sleep more easily. For example, get them to tense and relax each limb / muscle of the body in sequence to teach them how to let go of tension and bring their focus into their body. Also teach them to breathe from their diaphragm by placing you hand on their belly as they breathe in and out. This will help them get comfortable and relax.
10. DON’T WORRY
Regardless, any disruption tends to be temporary. Most infants and children get back on schedule around 3 days to a week after the clock change.
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