Fall Back: Dealing with the clock change.

Autumn is a lovely time of the year. Perhaps my favourite! The air turns crisp, the leaves change colour, and it’s time to cosy up in your favourite woollen jumpers. That being said, it can also be a challenging time of year, as it’s the end of daylight saving time in the UK, which means the clocks move one hour earlier (or ‘fall back’). In my younger days this was my absolute favourite night of the year as it meant one hour extra in bed. However, now I’m a parent, this is my least favourite night of the year as, unfortunately, children don’t get the ‘additional hour in bed’ memo, meaning they are up (technically) one hour earlier. Cue extra long and tiring day for all the family!

As such, I thought I’d answer some common ‘clock change’ questions, ensuring the ‘Fall Back’ transition goes as smoothly as possible for you and your little one…

Why does this clock change affect a little one’s sleep?

Wake times are largely governed by the circadian rhythm or internal clock. Although the clock on the wall might say it’s an hour earlier after the fall-back clock change, a little one’s internal clock will tell a different story. That means your little one is likely to wake earlier until their internal clock is programmed to wake later – a process that involves shifting the circadian rhythm through light exposure and changes to their daytime routine. 

How should I approach the clock change?

You have a few options. The option you choose will have a lot to do with your little one’s age, temperament and current routine:

Go ‘Cold Turkey’:

If your child is quite adaptable, you could just make the change in one fell swoop. As soon as they wake on the morning of the clock change, immediately change to the new time – adjusting nap, meal and bed times. This might mean a bit of grumpiness and potential short naps (due to overtiredness) for the first day or so, but with consistency, you should be back on track. This tends to be easier for the older babies/children than the younger ones. 

Split the difference:

The night before the clock change, put your little one to bed half an hour later. In theory, this should be the little tweak that will help them get closer to the ‘new time’ the next day. The next night, you can then put them to bed the full hour later.

Gradual change:

If you have a little one on quite a regular schedule or who is particularly sensitive to routine changes, I highly recommend preparing in advance. This means pushing bedtime back by 15 minutes each day for the few days in the lead up to the clock change. You will also need to adjust the rest of their schedule by the same amount of time.

Is there anything else I can do to help my little one adjust to the clock change?

Plenty of fresh air and natural light:

Light plays an important part in controlling our internal body clocks. So, on the day of the clock change (and beyond), spend a little extra time outside during the day for a boost of fresh air and natural light. Additionally, keep your little one in their darkened bedroom until their ‘normal’ wake up time (an hour later).

Adjust the rest of their routine, not just sleep:

Remember, whatever adjustments you make to their bedtime schedule should also be made to their nap and meal times. So, if bedtime is pushed back by 15 minutes, so should nap and meal times. 

For toddlers, use a sleep clock:

For older babies and children, use a sleep clock. This will make it easier for your little one to understand and follow the new schedule. Just remember to adjust the time on the night of the clock change (unless it automatically does this for you!). 

Continue your calming bedtime routine:

Stick to your same bedtime routine during the transition to get your little one’s body ready for sleep. Aim to be calm and consistent. The familiarity will help them adjust to the change. 

Be patient, and kind to yourself:

It may take your little one a few days to adjust to the time change, so don’t be surprised if they are a little grumpy or out of sorts for a few days. Whilst you wait for this adjustment, be kind to yourself. Make sure you get plenty of rest and don’t worry if things aren’t ‘perfect’ for a while. You may need to be flexible but, rest assured, your little one will adapt within a few days and everything should be back to normal. 

How can I get more support with my little one’s sleep?

If you are struggling with your little one’s sleep, and would like my support and guidance, get in touch and book a free Discovery Call