When the clocks go forward (this year on Sunday 28 March), it’s clearly bad news for the sleep-deprived and if you have very young children you will probably find you’ll be up as soon as they open their eyes. That’s without factoring in the utter chaos which has probably ensured to domestic routines during the Covid-19 lockdown. I don’t know about you but our sleep schedules have all gone to pot with later bedtimes and variable rising times.
Luckily, Caitlin and Ieuan are now at the age where we can negotiate with them (i.e. bribe them) to stay in their rooms till a vaguely decent hour (anything past 7 am). It does get easier I promise you.
How to cope with little ones when the clocks go forward
I remember though how tough it was when they were younger.
Whilst it is easier for us adults to adapt to the effect of the change on our body clocks, it’s less simple for our kids.
I say easier for adults, although I once had a friend who would spend the entire day following a clock change asking “but what time is it really”?
Are there ways to make it easier on yourself?
Here are some things you could try.
Prepare yourself a few days before
You may find you cope better if you adjust your own sleep routine, starting a couple of days before. It might be a good time to check your bed is as comfortable as it should be and that your mattress is still up to the job.
You could try going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each night and waking up 10-15 minutes earlier each morning. When Sunday arrives, you will already be adjusted and when the kids bound into your room at 5 am it won’t be so much of a shock (hopefully!).
You could also try the same approach with the children’s bedtime/wake-up time.
Watch what they eat close to bedtime
We know that certain foods help us to feel sleepy. For example, milk contains tryptophan which increases the amount of serotonin – a natural sedative. Eating a banana with milk also provides vitamin B6 which helps convert the tryptophan to serotonin. Needless to say, high sugar foods close to bedtime are a no-no!
If your children haven’t eaten much that day you could always try a small portion of porridge (not a high sugar cereal) to help settle little tums or even a couple of cubes of cheese.
Reduce nap times
If your children are still napping, consider reducing their nap time by a quarter of an hour or so the day before to ensure that they are a little more tired at bedtime. If you’re extra brave, do away with the nap altogether, although this isn’t a good long-term strategy because you may find their sleep patterns are disrupted because they get too tired. A one-off won’t hurt.
Get busy the day before
Plan a few activities the day before so that you are out and about in the fresh air. It’s hard to feel naturally tired if you are indoors all day. We are spoiled for places to visit near Cardiff and can be in the open countryside in about half an hour but at the moment the advice is to exercise once a day close to your home (no driving to other locations) and maintain social distancing rules at the same time. A brisk walk is the most we’re going to get I think but there are plenty of YouTube exercise videos and, of course, Joe Wicks’ daily PE session at 9 am.
Stick to your usual bedtime routine
Make sure you stick to your usual bedtime routine so that the children are able to go to sleep easily. A warm bath, milk and a cosy story – all the usual weapons in your sleep armoury should be used!
Block out the sun
When the sunlight comes streaming through the curtains it’s hard for anyone to sleep. Good blackout blinds or a blackout lining added to the curtains in your children’s bedrooms will really help, as will something simple like a Venetian or roller blind.
Change the clocks the night before
Get it over with I say! If you don’t change them till you wake up there’s a risk you might forget the time has changed and be late for football/church/the pub (kidding!). Even if you can’t go anywhere, maintaining some sort of routine will help you to stay on an even keel.
Don’t forget to alter the clocks on anything that doesn’t automatically update.
Make the most of the extra hour
If you’re pretty sure you’re going to be up extra early, why not prepare a special breakfast with one or two treats like some pastries and fresh orange juice.
You could even go for an early walk or cycle. It will be a while before we can all go swimming again though.
Yes, I know most of us will be slumped in an armchair clutching a mug of coffee but the thought is there.
Go to bed a bit earlier on Sunday
If all else fails, you can all have a slightly earlier night on Sunday, safe in the knowledge that at least you won’t have to do the school run. I don’t know about you though, but I’m quite missing it!
Here’s hoping you all have a restful Saturday night. Have you got any tips for coping when the clocks go forward?