This is a guest post by Katie Forsythe from The Baby Sleep Company.
This Sunday the 5th of April, the majority of Australians will wind back their clock to adjust for the end of daylight savings time. As if it isn’t sad enough that summer has ended, the change can also mean a disruption to toddler and young children’s sleep patterns. Newborn and young babies tend to not be affected as much which is great news but as with any sleep disruption, for families with older babies it can mean resorting to previously unneeded sleep aids which can then turn into a habitual sleep issue. Yikes!
Even adults can find themselves a bit sleepy for a few days as their body adjusts to the new time, so it stands to reason that kids would feel that impact even longer but there are definitely steps you can take to lessen this impact.
Adjust sleep times slowly
In the four days leading up to April 5th try to shift your toddler’s sleep times by 15 minutes per day. It can be useful to apply this to naps as well as bedtime to make it easier for them to last the extra time in the evening and not get too overtired. If you know your child is particularly sensitive to routine changes it can be helpful to start this process even earlier and only adjust by 15 minutes every two days. By planning it out on a calendar you can ensure that you arrive at the correct ‘bedtime’ on the night that we wind our clocks back.
Natural sunlight can your best friend when it comes to helping your toddler gently adjust their circadian rhythm (body clock). Much like when we’re trying to help a child get through jet-lag, it’s important to try to spend at least an hour a day outside in broad daylight (obviously remembering to protect your little one from sunburn!) when adjusting to the daylight savings clock wind back.
When we wind our clocks back at the end of daylight savings naturally it means it’s darker outside earlier. Try to limit bright indoor lights after sundown and use softer lamps for lighting instead. It can also be very helpful to restrict usage of devices that emit bright light (such as iPads, iPhones, television and computers) after sundown as these can artificially impact your toddler’s circadian rhythm as well.
Black out blinds
While winding back the clock means that it is darker at bedtime (hurray!) it also unfortunately means that it is lighter earlier in the morning than it was last week (boooooo!). Seeing as the presence of light is one of the main triggers for a human to wake, a tactic for daylight savings related early rising is to make the room as dark as possible to delay your toddler’s morning wake time.
And finally – be patient!
Most families report that they feel the repercussions of the time change for as long as a week after the end of daylight savings time. Be prepared to deal with a slightly grumpier toddler who is probably feeling the effects of the time change more than you are and try to make allowances for that.