Tips for handling the ‘spring forward’ clock change.

On March 31st, 2024, at 1am, the clocks will ‘spring forward’ an hour, shifting yours and your little one’s routine by one full hour. Some, more laid-back babies and children will hardly notice the difference. However, for some more sensitive little ones, it can wreak havoc on their sleep and internal body clocks – leading tired parents everywhere to question how one hour can make such a profound difference.  

Last year I wrote a blog on how you can prepare your little one in advance for this change, making it as easy as possible for them and for you. This year, I thought it would be interesting to cover the day of the change itself and how you can get your little one ready for going to bed an hour earlier than usual on the 31st. 

The night before the change (30th March):

Depending on the approach you take to the clock change (i.e. gradually bringing their bedtime forward by 15mins each day in the lead up to the 31st, or just going ‘cold turkey’ and winging it), you may or may not be putting your little one to bed earlier than usual tonight. See my 2023 blog for more information on this. 

As a parent, you need to be aware that this change is happening so you can get everything ‘on track’ the following morning. 

The morning of the change (31st March):

Now, your little one will theoretically wake an hour later this morning. This will be fantastic news for parents of early risers who have been waking pre-6am. It’s a little trickier for those who already have late(r) risers. 

I would recommend not letting your little one lie in too long on the morning of the clock change. Theoretically, they will naturally wake an hour later than usual. But don’t let them sleep in much longer than this or it will be even harder to get them down at their usual bedtime tonight.

As soon as your little one is up, open the curtains (let the natural light flood in), get them out of their cot/bed and downstairs for some breakfast. This will all start resetting their body clocks. 

Daytime routine on the day of the change (31st March):

Be aware that any nap (along with feed) times will need to shift on the day of the clock change. If you anchor your naps at the same time every day, these won’t necessarily happen at their normal times. Your little one simply may not be tired at their normal nap times (because their body thinks it’s an hour earlier!). Instead, I would recommend using average wake windows to work out how long they should be awake between naps. 

Be aware, you may also need to shorten their naps to ensure that you are able to bring their bedtime forward. If you stick to your normal nap lengths, your little one will naturally need a later bedtime than usual, so don’t be afraid to wake your little one from their nap(s) to protect the next nap(s) or bedtime. 

If your little one is on a three-nap day, you could even skip the third, power, nap that day to bring bedtime forward the hour. 

Day time activities for the day of the change (31st March):

A balancing act is required to ensure your little one is sufficiently tired for their earlier bedtime, yet not so overtired that their body is flooded with cortisol (the stress hormone) and their instinct is to fight sleep. 

Here are some activities you could consider for the day of the clock change:

  • A walk in the fresh air and natural sun light 
  • Swimming 
  • Tummy time 
  • A fun class
  • Reading books 
  • Dancing together 
  • Sensory play
  • Bubbles
  • A play at the local play park 
  • Bike ride
  • Soft play 
  • Feed the ducks 
  • Trampoline park 
  • Wash the car 
  • Yoga

Preparing for bedtime on the evening of the change (31st March):

Whatever activities you embark upon, do make sure you include some wind down time in the lead up to bedtime. I always recommend putting your home into ‘bedtime mode’ around an hour before you usually start your bedtime routine. Close the curtains, use lamp light only, turn off screens and calm down all play. This helps little ones understand that bedtime is coming and calms down their bodies in preparation for sleep. 

If your little one is on solids, try to have dinner ready for their usual dinner time, rather than it being an hour later. 

The bedtime routine on the evening of the change (31st March):

You have a couple of options in terms of choosing a time for bed on the evening of the change: 

  1. Keep it at its usual time (albeit their body clock will think it’s an hour earlier).
  2. Shift back bedtime by half an hour (so it’s theoretically only half an hour earlier than usual). *

*You can then make the full change to the new time tomorrow. 

Whatever approach you take, keep your bedtime routine the same as usual. This familiar routine (the same steps in the same order each night) is a cue to your little one’s body to the upcoming sleep. 

It should, ideally, take a little one around 10-15mins to go to sleep if they’re not crashing out from overtiredness. It may be that your little one is slightly under tired on this night, so it takes them longer than this to fall asleep. If they’re happy in their cot/bed, you can just leave them to it. If they’re unhappy, you can support them in going to sleep – for example, patting/shushing and/or doing periodic check-ins. 

You may be surprised at how easily your little one goes to sleep at this earlier time! 

The morning after the change (1st April):

It’s important to get your little one back on their usual schedule as quickly as possible. So, I’d recommend waking them at 7am latest on the day after the change. This ensures that you can fit their naps into the day and get bedtime back to its usual time. 

Hopefully that gives you some food for thought on the upcoming clock change. I understand this can be a tricky time for some little ones but know that it’s just a phase and should quickly work itself out over the course of a few days. And, if it continues for longer than this (or just blurs into several sleep horrors), get in touch, and set up a free Discovery Call with me. I’d love to hear from you.