When the clocks go back in October it can feel like the whole flow of bedtime is interrupted. You and your little one both know the score, you have a way you do things and it works, and then all of a sudden it feels like bedtime but there’s still an hour left to go according to the clock!
What can you do to avoid the changing clocks from causing chaos?
Well, there’s plenty of options, the trick is for you to think about which ones will work best for your family.
- Make the change over a few weeks. If you want to avoid overtired, and somehow reinvigorated children by keeping them up for an extra hour the day the clocks change, then you can make the process gradual over a couple of weeks. Push bedtime back by ten or 15 minutes every few days, so that bedtime is already an hour later on by the time the clocks change. This gradual shift can help ease you gently into prolonging bedtime.
- Do it on the day. On the day the clocks go back take the opportunity to do something together for that extra hour before a later bedtime. Whether you read a whole heap of stories on the sofa, do an infant massage, take a relaxing warm bath together, bake, or go for an evening welly walk, enjoy the time, rather than clock watching and wishing you could put them to bed. And hope the extra activity helps tire them out for a super easy bedtime. Well, it’s a nice thought at least!
- Keep calm. I mean this is the key to the whole of parenting life really, isn’t it? But it is especially important when it comes to bedtime, because if there is one thing that is guaranteed to make sure your little one won’t drop off, it is when you are wound up! Kids find it harder to relax when they can feel your stress. Snuggle up and relax and they’ll be asleep before you know it!
- Create a calm environment and calming rituals. If your bedtime routine has never been all that great then use this as a time to change it. When we want to calm our children it can help to think of all 5 senses.
- Smell– using an oil diffuser to create a smell that your child associates with bedtime can help with conditioning your child to calm. It takes time to condition a child to anything, but in time just smelling that smell will help them feel calmer and more ready to sleep.
- Taste– whether breast or bottle, or milk from a cup for older children, it is one of the earliest tastes your baby will remember drifting off to. Lots of people are very wary of feeding to sleep, but if it works for you, then there is no problem with it. If it doesn’t, then you can still use the sleepy power of milk a little earlier in your routine. For older children you may want to include a suppertime snack of something containing the amino acid tryptophan. The body uses this in the production of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy when it gets darker. It may help us get to sleep more easily. It is found in bananas, wholegrain cereals, oats, seeds, nuts and, of course, milk.
- Sound– bedtime stories, relaxing music such as alpha music, white noise or relaxing sounds, or gentle shushing. You can sing or play music to your little ones. You may find that using the same music or sounds at each bedtime also helps to condition your baby or child to sleep easily. The BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm CDs contain white noise and alpha music tracks that may help your little one drift off gently!
- Sight– Blackout blinds or curtain linings tend to create a dark room for sleeping in and they’re really helpful to avoid your little one waking “an hour earlier” in the morning because it gets lighter an hour earlier. They are great for keeping the room dark at bedtime all year round but if you don’t have any, now could be the time to get some. Avoid blue light (TV, phone screens and computers emit lots of blue light) as this can inhibit our melatonin production by tricking our eyes into thinking it is still light. Of all artificial lights, red is the least disruptive to sleep.
- Touch– this can be a soft comforter or blanket, your warm arms, or gentle pats or strokes to help them doze off. All babies and children will have preferences, some will love to be held, and some will want a cuddle and then to roll away, some love the weight of your arm resting over them, and some like to be stroked gently, find out what works for your little one and use it to put the final touches to your calming bedtime atmosphere. You can even make massage a part of your bedtime routine if you want.
- Think about your bedtime too. OK, you have got your child to sleep an hour later, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will sleep that hour later too, even with the black out blinds! Don’t rely on getting an extra hour of sleep yourself, so if you want to be ready for what could be an even earlier wake up call than usual, try to bank the extra hour by not moving your bedtime an hour later!
What are your top tips for shifting bedtime with the clocks?