Jenny Stephenson

Managing sleep when the clocks go back an hour

written by Jenny Stephenson

  1. #sleep
  2. #toddler
  3. #baby
  4. #time change
  5. #clocks go back
  6. #clocks going back

In the UK, October 28th 2018 marks the end of daylight saving time and most of us know this as ‘the clocks go back an hour’. What is the best way to help your child adapt to the time change without sleep being disrupted? HappySleepers outlines two different approaches that might suit your child.

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Who this might work well for: This often works fine for older children and particularly those who do not have any particular sleep difficulties, such as falling asleep at the beginning of the night. The impact should be minimal with perhaps a few days of adjustment. Method: Just put your child to bed at the time according to the clock on Sunday evening and he or she will probably be tired and ready to sleep (as it will be an hour later than usual).

Gradually you will get there


Who this might work well for: Babies or children who might be more sensitive to time changes. Or those whose current sleep times are not quite on track. Method: Consider the following steps to help your child adjust gradually:

  1. Look at your child’s current sleep times and work out what the change will mean for your child. For example if your timings are just where you want them to be, you can help them adjust to the new times. If your child is currently sleep times are not quite how you would like them to be and the time change will help (e.g. the clocks are going back an hour in the autumn and you already want your child to be going to bed an hour earlier) – here you are in luck! You can just shift your child to the immediately to the new time. Keep bedtime routines consistent and block out any daytime. If your child’s sleep times are off in a direction where the time change will make things worse, gradually make adjustments towards new time and then keep going in small steps until you have reached the target sleep time. A common scenario here is the autumn clocks going back and your child is already waking up early in the morning.

  2. If gradual steps are needed then decide on the pace of change for your child. If your baby is quite flexible you may decide on a faster adjustment (e.g. 20 minutes per day). Other babies can be more sensitive to change and will benefit from a slower pace (e.g. 10 minutes per day).

  3. Shift gradually towards the time change, using the pace of adjustment that you feel is best for your child. So this might start 3, 4 or 6 days before the time change. Follow your usual bedtime routine and put your child down to sleep 20, 15 or 10 minutes later each day. This will take 3, 4 or 6 days to reach the 1 hour time change, depending on pace of change.

  4. With all of the above, keep sleep environment and routines consistent. The familiar signposting towards bedtime will help your child to adjust to the change.

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