How to Navigate the Spring Clock Change With Children

Sleep expert, Naomi Hilliard, from children’s sleep consultancy Catching Little Dreams, Southampton, shares her top tips on how you can navigate the spring clock change with your little ones this March.

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The spring (forward) clock change is fast approaching.  In the early hours of Sunday 31st March 2024 our clocks go forward by an hour, signalling the start of British Summer Time (BST) and that summer is on its way with better temperatures and longer evenings.  But this can also fill parents of young children with dread as the time change and lighter nights can be disruptive to children’s sleep patterns and bedtime routines.  

As we approach the start of British Summer Time, many parents find themselves asking, “Will the clocks going forward affect my baby?” The answer is yes, it can. Babies, much like adults, have their internal biological clocks or circadian rhythms. Any changes to their regular schedule can potentially disrupt their sleep patterns.

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. They are primarily influenced by light and darkness in a human’s environment. In babies, these rhythms start developing a few weeks after birth and become more established by three to six months of age.

Babies’ sleep-wake cycles are not as mature as those of adults. Therefore, they are more sensitive to changes in light exposure and timing of activities such as feeding and sleeping. This sensitivity makes them more susceptible to disruptions when there is a shift in time or lighter evenings.

While the clock change can disrupt your baby’s sleep pattern, there are several strategies you can use to help them adjust and we will look at them all during this blog post so you can decide the best approach for your family.

By approaching the clock change in the right way your little one will adjust and be on the right schedule within a few days. Get it wrong and you can end up with an overtired baby which can lead to additional struggles.

Naomi Hilliard from Catching Little Dreams sleep consultancy gives some guidance on how to manage this. 

Naomi says “If you have an early riser this is the clock change of dreams as 6am suddenly becomes 7am.  If this is you, then you don’t need to adjust your little one’s schedule at all. Enjoy a later wake up time!

But to avoid overtired children going to bed an hour later than usual, this clock change means putting your little ones to bed early so they can navigate this change more easily as we are not keeping them awake longer which can lead to them becoming overtired and harder to put to bed.”

Tips to move bedtime earlier:

Option 1: For a sensitive child or younger baby who is still on several naps during the day: Start on the Wednesday before and move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night.

Option 2: For older babies or toddlers: Move bedtime by half an hour earlier the night before and then half an hour earlier on the night of the clock change. This should ease them in with our the hour’s difference affecting them too much.

Option 3: For older toddlers or young children: Do the full hour change in one go.  Put them to bed an hour early.

Remember if you have a ‘gro-clock’ or toddler clock you will need to change the time on the clock the night before too.

If your little one/s don’t quite adjust from the first night, keep to the new schedule and they will adjust nicely.

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