The clocks are going back on Sunday 29 October 2023, so here’s how to make sure you and your baby are coping with the clock change.
The clocks are going back at the end of this week, marking much longer nights and the official end of British Summer Time. The clocks will roll back 1 hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October (29th October this year).
And, although we’ll all be getting one more hour in bed, those tending to babies and toddlers may find your best laid routines thrown out the window when the clocks change.
We’ve called in the experts from Happy Beds and Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist from Somnus Therapy, to provide expert advice on avoiding disruption to your children’s sleep. From adjusting their sleeping routine to thinking carefully about what you’re feeding your baby, here’s how you can make the transition as easy as possible.
Top Tips for Coping With the Clock Change
Young children need sleep as they develop and grow, and the transition into daylight saving time (DST) can be tough, especially because losing just one hour of sleep can negatively impact a child’s mood, concentration and appetite. Here are our top tips for coping with the clock change.
Make Bedtime Later
Gradually shift your child’s bedtime back so it’s later by 10-15 minutes, each day, a few days before the transition from standard time to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). In addition, waking your child up 10-15 minutes later on the Saturday before the time change will help their body gently adjust and ease into a new schedule.
Toddlers should aim for at least twelve hours of sleep before and after transitioning to GMT, whilst school-aged children should aim for at least ten hours of sleep before and after transitioning.
Consistency is Key
Establishing a routine is key. You should keep your child’s ‘bedtime’ and ‘wake’ time as consistent as possible. Yes, even on weekends! Consistency can help to prepare for any time changes. It’s also more likely to result in more restful and restorative sleep.
Exposure to Natural Light
Increasing your child’s time in the sunlight during the day is a useful technique. Getting outside in the natural light is very beneficial for regulating our circadian rhythm – our internal body clock which determines when we should sleep.
Melatonin is a hormone that’s triggered by darkness. When it’s dark, our brains produce more melatonin, helping us feel sleepy. On the other hand, when we’re outdoors in the natural light our level of melatonin reduces, meaning we won’t feel as tired.
Technology Cut-off Time
Avoid bright lights in the evening. This includes blue light from mobile phones, tablets and other electronics. Blue light can delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin and reset the internal clock to an even later schedule. Just one hour of screen exposure can delay a child’s melatonin release by three hours!
For a smoother transition and for better sleep in general, give yourself and your children a technology cut-off time at least 60 minutes before bed.
A Nap May be in Order
If your child feels under slept, a nap could be the answer. A nap should last around 20 minutes or less and ideally be before 3pm, as this will not weaken your child’s ability to sleep later that night. Napping frequently and later on in the day, however, can cause more harm than it solves, decreasing your child’s drive and ability to sleep at night.
Katherine Hall also added: “Whilst the effects of the GMT transition are usually short-lasting, the routine can return to normal within a week, if a young child is continuously under sleeping, even by just an hour, there are long term health implications.”
Stick to your baby’s normal nap schedule but adjust it by 30 minutes for the first three days. Half an hour won’t make too much difference and allows your baby to adjust to the new time slowly rather than all at once. An hour is a lot for young children.
Leave The Clocks Alone
Judy Clark, a certified infant and child sleep consultant and founder of BabyWinkz, also suggests using the ‘split the difference’ routine for a smooth transition.
On the Saturday night before the change, make sure the clocks are left alone. Stick to your usual morning routine and get up at the same time. Only change the clocks after breakfast – this will lessen the impact of the change.
Warm Baths Before Bed
There is real science behind this popular method of promoting sleep. Our body temperatures are lowest at night when we are asleep, and taking a warm bath – while it may seem counterintuitive – causes a drop in body temperature. Bathing your little one one to two hours before bedtime will get their body temperature down and begin thinking it’s already asleep.
Moreover, you should follow a daily schedule of pre-bedtime activities. For example, after bathing, you could go straight to the bedroom where the lights should be dimmed – it’s also recommended to close the curtains 30 minutes before bedtime.
Don’t Forget to Praise Your Toddler
Praising your child improves their self-esteem, motivation and perseverance. So, if you give specific phrases referring to the successful night of sleeping, the more memorable it will be for them and, therefore, they’re more likely to repeat the behaviour.
How to Manage Mealtimes When the Clocks Change
Just as adjusting your baby to their new nap times is essential, slowly altering their feeding and milk times is also very important. Alice Fotheringham, Head of Nutrition at Piccolo, has created some simple feeding guidelines and easy tips to help prepare your baby for the clock change.
“Make sure you adjust their entire routine accordingly,” Alice explains. “Ten minutes extra playtime should also equal a ten minute later lunch.
“It’s important for parents to remember that their babies will likely be hungrier earlier, so have things on-hand and prepared that you can give them straight away as they wake up.”
The Best Bedtime Snacks for When the Clocks Go Forward
The sleep experts at MattressNextDay also state that specific foods at bedtime contribute to whether children have a good or bad night’s sleep. Opt for things like oat biscuits, bananas and milk that contain an amino acid called tryptophan, contributing to feelings of drowsiness and making it more more likely that your child will fall asleep.
Alice Fotheringham adds: “Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is commonly believed to cause drowsiness when our bodies successfully convert it to serotonin, known to regulate sleep cycles and stabilise mood.”
Making the below adjustments to your baby’s timetable might just do the trick in helping them settle in to a new routine ahead of the clock change.
Breakfast – 15 mins later
Lunch – 35 mins later
Dinner – 60 mins later
Foods to Boost Melatonin
Cherries are a fantastic source of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. It is often taken by adults in supplement form to help with jet-lag recovery.
Bananas are also a great source of vital Vitamin B6, which helps our bodies convert tryptophan to serotonin, a natural sedative.