When do the clocks go back?

On Sunday 31st October at 2am the clocks will ‘fall’ back for winter. Anyone without kids will say “Hooray, an extra hour in bed!” but if you have a little one, this small change can wreak havoc with sleep routines.
So how do you slowly weave in the new time into the day? When should you do mealtimes? And if you’re living an hour later, how and when do you get to synchronise with your child?

If I had it my way….

Personally, I wish we could just get rid of this antiquated practice. Given there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after daylight savings time kicks in. It really does have an effect on all of us, and it can increase our sleep debt – especially in children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.
However, instead of grumbling about it, we might as well just focus on amending our kids’ schedules as quickly and efficiently as possible.
On that note, here’s my advice for readjusting your family’s internal clocks over the coming weeks.

Don’t let it scare you – apply changes one at a time

For “Fall Back,” my recommendation to all parents is just to leave the clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After your cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way, trust me!
If, for example, your little one usually takes a morning nap around 9:30, you will adjust this to 9:00 for the three days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap.
Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7 p.m. I recommend putting your child to bed at 6:30 p.m. for the first three days following the time change. (This will FEEL like 7:30 to your child.) And it will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this.

A little trick for children over the age of two

If you have children over the age of two, you can use a clock to help with getting them adjusted to the new time. Put a Gro clock in the room and set it half an hour forward to start the day, so that at 6:30 am it shows the sun for the start of the day. If using a digital clock put a piece of tape over the minutes, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. Just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30 it says 7:00. Let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that, by the end of the week, they will be back on track and sleep until their normal wake-up time.

On the fourth night, just get in line with the new time so your baby is back to going to bed when the clock says 7:00 pm. Adjust naps to the correct time on day 4 as well.

With a little luck and preparation, you might just find yourself savouring that extra hour of sleep after all.

Another tip…

Our internal sleep clocks are pretty powerful. If you know your child will probably wake up at the normal time, see if you can keep them in their cot or bed for 10 minutes or so longer in the morning. Stagger the time change through the day. Why not add a couple of extra snacks and try…

  • Breakfast – 15 mins later
  • Lunch – 35 mins later
  • Tea – 60 mins later

Meal times can help to set your body clock, make mealtimes one of the key timing changes. And then your final task is to see if you can move bedtime to an hour later, without a torrent of tired tears.

One final thing…

Don’t allow the clocks going back to let you slip into bad habits. Bringing your baby into bed with you or giving a dawn milk feed to encourage your baby back to sleep may work in the short term but long term may lead to sleeping problems.