“Springing forward” – Time change is here!

Spring time is here!

That means time is changing once more: the clocks will „spring forward“ – be ahead by one hour.

8 o’clock in the morning is actually still 7: 00 am for our bodies. Sleep will be cut short for an hour; but on the bright side we can look forward to summer and in the evenings it stays bright longer.

Even if it’s only an hour, this change can pretty mess up some of us. Others have no problems at all with it.

This applies to our children as well. Although many babies and children manage this change easily, for others this can be a challenge. You worked so hard to help your child establish a good day and night rhythm which now is completely disorganized. This is frustrating for the both of you.

Our eating and sleeping rhythm changes only by one hour. So why does this relatively small change trouble some of us so much?

The reason for this chaos is our biorhythm – our internal clock, which now is out of sync. All living creatures are controlled by hormones, which tells us exactly when it’s time to eat, sleep, etc. If we suddenly have to get up an hour earlier, our melatonin production has not yet adapted to this new hour. Blood pressure and pulse rate are still low. Actually we are still sleeping. In the evening, we have the reverse effect: we are just not getting tired. That is particularly troublesome if your little ones were used to fixed nursing, bottles or bedtimes.

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There is one good thing about it though: Switching to summer time brings an advantage to all parents who have to suffer under a notorious little early riser: your child will now sleep an hour longer and waking you up at 6 o’clock instead of  5 o’clock.

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How can you help babies and small children to cope better with the time change?

Especially with younger children it is advisable to slowly prepare them for the time change bit by bit and not just put them to bed one hour earlier.

If children are around ten years old, their bodies are more accustomed to the change in time. The time shift by an hour won’t bother them as much. A good idea is to prepare small children for the change.

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Step by step:

Put your baby or child to bed earlier for a few days before the change. Start by putting him 15 minutes earlier to bed. Do this for one or two days and see how your child handles it. Then again 15 minutes earlier for a couple of days, etc. Until you have reached one hour.

If your child is still napping, also adjust his nap time bit by bit. This helps him to fall asleep quicker at night . A big misconception is to skip the nap or cut it short, because you may think that your child will be more tired at night. This is not the case, on the contrary: overtired children sleep worse at night and wake up often during the night.

The change is especially hard for kindergarten and school children who have to get up in the morning on time. You can explain to them the time change so they better understand why they should suddenly go to bed an hour earlier.

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Changing light conditions:

The transition to summer time is usually a bigger problem than to winter time. Because there will be more light in the evening.

It is important that these different light conditions are not messing up or disturbing your child’s sleep. Black out blinds, thick curtains or shutters can help to block out the light.

Make their bedroom in the evening quite dark, this facilitates getting tired and falling asleep. Then do the reverse in the morning –  let the light come in, this way your child will wake up more easily. Wake your child in the morning, if necessary, the first days after the time change, otherwise difficulties with bedtime will be inevitable.

In the first days after the change, also don’t let your child watch television prior to going to bed. This includes tablets and smartphones as well. Watching cartoons and movies will stimulate their brains but also these devices emit blue light, which stops the production of melatonin (sleep hormone) in the brain. This blue light has the same effect on us, as strong, bright sunlight. Therefore not really helping to become tired.

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Maintain structures and routines:

It is important to maintain the normal daily routine despite all of the changes. Do the same good-night routine as always and not suddenly change everything.

Even if the change of time may cause a few days of nightly chaos, do not change the rules. Stay very consistent in the following weeks and be careful that bad habits are not sneak in and becoming ingrained. If your child wakes up suddenly at night and comes to your bed, then take him calmly but surely back in his own bed. Your baby cries at night for you, since she can’t go back to sleep? Then try to calm her down in her own crib instead of picking her up.

It is important that you show your child that only the clock has changed but your routines and rules have not. Resist the temptation to play at night with your child or to watch TV if he just doesn’t wants to sleep. If you make too many exceptions, then your child will need a long time to adapt to the change!

During the second week after the change, you child should be ok with the new time.

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Meal times:

Meals give the day structure. They so to speak give us subconscious clues to perceive the right time. You can make breakfast, lunch or dinner half an hour before the normal time a few days before the change. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding if you on a schedule can be pushed a bit earlier as well.

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Be active during the day:

In order to ensure that bedtime will be as stress-free as possible after the change, it can also help if your children have the opportunity to play and  spend time in the fresh air and spend the day actively. Then, most probably your little one will fall asleep dead tired at bedtime. But be careful, let your child have emough of time to relax from the active day. Otherwise, you will have the opposite effect: a wired, overstimulated child running around, hard to put to bed.

A not too heavy meal prior going to bed and the right room temperature between 16 and 18 degrees, ensures that children can sleep better.

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Do not stress yourself:

The more relaxed and natural you deal with the time change, the faster your child will get used to it. And do not show her that you’re anxious or stressed. Because even very young infants can perceive your uncertainty quickly and they in turn react with uncertainty and protest.

Rather have fun and look forward to the upcoming summer and enjoy the longer days with your family!

I wish you lots of happy days…

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