PARENTS

Daylight Savings: Advice For Parents To Ensure An Easy Sleep Schedule When The Clocks Change

Blackout blinds are a lifesaver.

23/03/2016 14:04 GMT | Updated 13/03/2017 12:01 GMT

To give us lighter evenings and a glimmer of hope that summer is on the way, the clocks will be going forward on Sunday 26 March 2017.

Although it’s easy for parents to cope with one hour’s less sleep and a changing new body clock, it can be a little trickier for children.

We asked two sleep experts - Katie Palmer from Infant Sleep Consultant and Maryanne Taylor from The Sleep Works - to give their tips on how to make sure changing your kids’ sleep schedule is as pain-free as possible.

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A blackout blind can help reducing the light streaming into your child's room

1. Enforce a bedtime wind down.

"The hardest adjustment when the clocks go forward is to convince your child to stay in bed when it is light outside," Palmer told The Huffington Post UK.

"A good routine helps keep continuity and gives the body a chance to unwind so that the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) coincides with when you want your child to go to sleep," she said.

Palmer said this "wind down" should start from dinner time.

"Once your children have had their food, encourage quiet play before they have a bath and get ready for bed," she added.

"The temptation to let them charge around so they wear themselves out can often have the reverse effect as they get too hyped and can't sleep."

2. Gradually make bedtime later.

"A few days before the clocks change, start to make your child's bedtime later by around 15 minutes per night," Palmer said.

"This will help with the transition."

Taylor agreed with this, adding: "For children having naps, wake them five minutes earlier from the last nap to accommodate this."

3. Keep the day before a busy day.

Taylor said if you aren't able to gradually change your child's bedtime the week before, there is still a quick fix.

"On the Saturday (26 March), try to have a busy day with plenty of activities and move bedtime 30 minutes earlier than usual," she explained.

"On Sunday, wake everyone by 7am (yes, I know that sounds unappealing, but this will set you up for the rest of the day). 

"Continue with timing as normal on Sunday, but children may need a slightly earlier nap to prevent them getting too overtired."

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4. Reduce light coming into the room.

Palmer said your child's bedroom doesn't have to be pitch black, but you don't want the light blazing in either. 

"Use a blackout blind and if possible, have your child facing away from a window so they are not straining to see the chinks of light creep around the edges," she advised. 

"Draw the curtains before they get ready for bed so the lights are kept low, as it will help them to wind down for sleep."

Taylor said this will also reduce potentially early wake-ups.

"Early waking in the morning can be caused by light, so keeping the room as dark as possible can encourage a later wake up," she added.

5. Find a visual aid for bedtime.

"For a child of two years or older you can introduce a visual aid that lets them know when it is sleep time and when they can get up - also called a sleep training clock or just a small light on a timer," Palmer explained.

"The light goes off when you say good night and it doesn't come back on until an acceptable time to get up."

6. Forget about the "old time".

Taylor said too many people get caught up in thinking about the "old time" and "new time" once the clocks have changed.

"Don’t go there," she said. "Once the hour has changed, forget about the ‘old time’. 

"It’s just current time now and keep to your normal schedule based on the new time."

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7. Have realistic expectations.

Unfortunately this may mean earlier mornings, Palmer explained.

"When we have lighter mornings, I would recommend anything from 6am as morning," she said.

"You can gradually stretch out the time they need to wait before starting the day.

"If your child wakes earlier encourage them to stay in bed quietly and wait for their 'light' to come on.

"Don't get into lots of conversations and keep interaction at a minimum - treat 5.30am the same as if they had woken at 3am."

Palmer said it may take a while for children to adjust to change, so give them time to do this. 

"It could take a week or two," she added. "Make sure that you are consistent in your approach in settling to sleep and waking early."

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