Five things parents need to know when the clocks change

Posted by iChild, March 23, 2022 12:02 PM

By Katherine Hall, sleep psychologist, in partnership with Happy Beds

From gradually changing bedtimes to naps, here’s how to keep your child well-rested.

Sleeping baby

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. 

Yorkshire-based bed retailer, Happy Beds, has teamed up with Katherine Hall, a sleep psychologist from Somnus Therapy, to provide expert advice on avoiding disruption to your children’s sleep. Here is what she suggested: 

1: Strike first

Gradually shift your child's bedtime back by 10-15 minutes, each day, a few days before the transition from standard time to daylight saving time (DST). In addition, waking your child up 10-15 minutes earlier 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 DST, whilst school-aged children should aim for at least ten hours of sleep before and after transitioning. 

2: Consistency

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.  

3: 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. 

4: 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 3 hours!  

For a smoother transition and for better sleep in general, give yourself and your children a technology cut-off time - I’d recommend at least 60 minutes before bed. 

5: 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 before 3 pm, as this will not weaken your child’s ability to sleep later on 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. 

Clock

Katherine Hall also added: “Whilst the effects of the DST 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.” 

By Katherine Hall, sleep psychologist, in partnership with Happy Beds

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