Even small seasonal shifts like when sun rises and sets can mess with a child’s sleep schedule. So when the clocks shift backwards by an hour, it can wreak havoc on even the best of tiny sleepers.
Adjusting a child’s biological clock is a process. With my gentle 9-day plan, or 3-day fast-track plan, you can help your child adjust prior to the clock’s changing and ensure they remain well-rested, alert and happy throughout the day.
Decide which temperament best fits your child from the two below and follow the appropriate schedule.
Gentle method (9-days)
Most suitable for babies or young children who are more sensitive to change. They easily notice when you change something up in the schedule or try a new bedtime routine.
Step 1. 9 nights before the clocks change, adjust your child’s entire 24-hour schedule by 20 minutes on night one. You start this change at bedtime. Start your bedtime routine 20 minutes early and have them in bed promptly 20 minutes earlier.
This means shifting everything from waking time (or when you physically get them up), breakfast/snacks/lunch and dinnertime, and bedtime. You cannot expect your child to easily adjust their biological clock if their tummies are hungry!
Remain on this new schedule for 3 days. 3 days is usually just enough for a child to adjust their biological sleep clock a little.
Step 2. On day 4, adjust their schedule another 20 minutes. As above, move their entire routine as in step 1. Remain on this new schedule (40 minutes earlier than when you started the 9-day plan) for another 3 days.
Step 3. On day 7, move your child’s schedule another 20 minutes. As above, you move everything.
On day 9, the clocks will change. By now your child will be sleeping an hour after their usual wake up time. So, your child will sleep until your desired wake up time.
Fast-track method (3 days)
Most suitable for babies or young children who don’t mind a bit of change every now and again. They are amenable and easy-going.
Step 1. 3 nights before the clocks change, plan on adjusting your child’s entire 24-hour schedule by 20 minutes. Starting at bedtime, start your bedtime routine 20 minutes earlier and get your child in bed 20 minutes earlier.
This means shifting everything from waking time (or when you physically get them up), breakfast/snacks/lunch and dinnertime, and bedtime.
Step 2. The next night, move their bedtime routine another 20 minutes earlier. You may notice some resistance here, it can be hard on little ones to go to bed so much earlier. Make sure their bedroom is really dark. It won’t help if they still see the light through the curtains.
Step 3. On night 3, move their bedtime another 20 minutes earlier (by now, this means 60 minutes). By morning the clocks will have changed and your child’s wake time should be pretty close to your desired wake time.
- Changing the napping schedule doesn’t work, what can I do?
Make sure your child’s room is dark. I mean really dark, like you can barely see your hand in front of you. Light and dark signals can help trigger signs of feeling awake and feeling sleepy.
- My child is sleepier than usual in the mornings.
Help your child by exposing your child to daylight early on in the morning. Open your blinds! Go for a walk. Have breakfast outside. Do everything you can to help your child by using daylight early on in the day.
- The fast-track process isn’t working and my child is resisting bedtime.
Ease up a little. Give your little one some time. Getting your child’s schedule back to “normal” can reasonably take up to two weeks. Try to go with the flow. Don’t give up completely! Remain on the bedtime you’re on and try moving it again (even if only 10 minutes) in a couple of nights.
With some planning and preparation, you can get through this!
If you need a helping hand, contact me for some personal support.