How to help your child with the time change to wintertime

Soon it’s time again, in Europe time changes to wintertime on the 25th of October. It changes one hour back from 3am to 2am. The time change can cause some sleep problems for many families and in many cases early rising. This is actually not that strange because we are going back an hour. If your child has been waking up at 6:30 am, they will suddenly wake up at 5:30 am. To make the time change as easy as possible, I’ve listed a few tips for you.

Note: The tips are for babies 6 months and older, as younger babies do not have a fully developed sleep pattern yet.

Slow transition

Many families fear the time change because their children will wake up earlier. If there are already some problems with waking up early, these can lead to even bigger sleep problems. To make sure your baby’s sleep doesn’t get completely out of control, I recommend a slow transition.

Adjust your child’s naps and bedtime about a week before the time change. Take your child to bed 15 to 20 minutes later (naps & bedtime) and move the time forward every few days until you’ve reached a full hour. 5-7 days in advance usually works best. If your child has a bedtime of 7:00 p.m., then start bedtime at 7:15 p.m., then at 7:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m., and so on until you reach the full hour. 

Morning and afternoon nap are extra important

It is important for children under 3-4 years to continue napping well during the day. A good night’s sleep is related to a good day’s sleep. To avoid over tiredness, make sure that your child sleeps well / long during the day. If you then go to bed a little later in the evening, it does not have such a negative impact.

Make sure that your child goes outside a lot and gets plenty of natural light between naps. Take an afternoon stroll or just let your child play outside.

“An overtired child automatically wakes up more often at night and often wakes up earlier. That is why it is so important that your child does not go to bed overtired during the time change. “

Blackout Curtains & White Noise

Although the days are getting shorter, there may still be natural light coming in the room when you put your child to bed. To avoid this, blackout curtains are a good solution. White noise can help and calm your child as well, as it filters out noises from outside. Blackout curtains are ideal for children who often wake up early. This is often a problem after changing to winter time, as it will be a little brighter in the morning for a few weeks.

My child still wakes up early, what to do?

It is best to use a dramatic wake up while preparing for (and after) the time change to help your child adjust to the new time. It is possible that your child will wake up earlier than normal after the change. If so, then keep the room dark and quiet and try to encourage your child to go back to sleep with as little interaction as possible. Calm your child down and give them the assurance that everything is OK and remind them that it is not time to wake up yet.

You can for example sit on a chair near the bed or by the door, or leave the room and come back regularly to check on your child. If your child is older than 2.5 years, a toddler clock would be a good help. Reading the time is still very difficult. A toddler clock makes it easier for them to understand when it’s still time to sleep or when it’s time to wake up. The clock uses colour or a visual so your child will understand “time” better. This will help your toddler stay in bed until at least 6:00 a.m. – and hopefully falls back to sleep.

As soon as it is time to get up, open the blinds / curtains and clearly wish your child “good morning”. Make sure that your child gets a lot of (natural) light first thing in the morning; this helps to adjust their circadian rhythm / internal clock to the new time.

If you have a child who gets up before 6:00 a.m., make sure you respond quickly and consistently to early risers. With some children it takes a few weeks for their internal clock to adjust to the new time.

Wakeful windows

Pay close attention to the wakeful window of your baby / toddler during nap as well as bedtime. If the midday nap is moved forward along with bedtime, the time between nap and bedtime should ideally be the same.

Age-appropriate bedtime

The end of summer time is a good time to make sure your child’s bedtime is age-appropriate. For babies and toddlers, this is a bedtime between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Later bedtime can have a negative effect on behaviour and the ability to concentrate and can lead to early waking. If you find that your child has actually gone to bed too early or too late recently, use the time change to gradually shift the bedtime – in steps of 15 to 20 minutes.

Bedtime ritual

Babies and toddlers need routine. Most likely, you have a series of activities that your child knows is time to prepare for sleep. A bath, a story, putting on pyjamas, a kiss and a song. All of this has to be moved slightly to the back, simultaneously with the bedtime. 

Sleep rituals are extra important now. Allow enough time during the day and in the evening for a calming sleep ritual / routine. Darken the room and dim the lights. If you notice that your child is overtired in the evening and / or has difficulty falling asleep, it might make sense to offer a power nap in the afternoon until your child has adapted to the later bedtime. This way you can avoid your child being overtired at bedtime.

If you haven’t introduced a bedtime ritual, now is the perfect time to start it.

The alternative: do nothing

Adults and older children can easily cope with the time change without too many problems. Again, it will take a few days before your child has adapted to it. But with a little planning and enough sun / light in the morning, the internal clock will adapt quickly.

Not sure how much sleep your child needs? How long should his wakeful windows be? How to introduce a relaxed bedtime ritual? How do you get rid of sleep crutches? Or do you just need a little more information about the time change? 

Just contact me, I’ll be happy to help you.



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