A sleep expert's guide to handling the end of daylight savings

Daylight saving ends on April Fool's - but it's no joke for tired parents
Daylight saving ends on April Fool's - but it's no joke for tired parents Photo: Shutterstock

While the end of daylight saving falls on April Fool's Day this year, any parent who's been through the horror of disrupted baby sleep patterns will assure you that winding the clocks back an hour is no laughing matter.

"Choosing April 1 as the end of daylight saving seems like a particularly bad joke to play on parents," says Cheryl Fingleson, also known as "The Sleep Coach".

According to Ms Fingleson, there are two ways parents can tackle the change - doing it all in one go, or a more gradual adjustment. "As always," she says, "this will depend on your child's personality - and yours."

Let's take a closer look at the two different approaches.

Method one: Business as usual 

This is best suited to little ones who can stay up past their bedtime without getting too overtired.

  1. On Saturday night (when daylight saving ends) put your child to bed as usual, following your normal routine.
  2. When your bub or toddler wakes the next morning, keep their routine exactly the same, with plenty of fresh air and sunlight to help their bodies adapt.

"With this method children sometimes struggle to have their naps at the new, earlier time, or stay awake until their new bedtime - which will feel to them much earlier than their old one - but usually this will usually resolve itself in a few days or by the end of the week at the most," Ms Fingleson says.

The downside: Earlier wake ups 

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If you follow this method, you'll want to ensure your coffee supply is well stocked. Ms Fingelson notes that you might notice your child waking earlier in the mornings - and from their naps. "If you need to move their naps to an earlier time, you can do so but only do it as a short-term solution," she says.
 
The upside: More time to yourself at night!

If you've got a night owl, following this method means little ones will be going to bed and waking earlier. "For instance if they struggled to go to sleep before seven, now their body clock will hopefully help them go to sleep at the new time of six o'clock," Ms Fingelson says. "The bonus is you will get more time to yourself in the evening!"

Method two: The slow change

This approach is best suited for bubs and toddlers who are particular sensitive to changes in their daily routine. But while it's slower, Ms Fingelson says that doesn't necessarily mean it's more work.

  1. Tweak bub's schedule ahead of time. "This usually works in babies older than eight months but some six-month-olds will also manage this change," says Ms Fingelson. "Smaller babies usually adapt more easily as their schedules aren't as set and their sleep patterns are often more unpredictable."
  2. If bub is waking at 5am, and 6am is the time you'd rather start your day, then move the routine ahead an hour in the days prior. "When the clocks go back, she will be waking at the new 5am time," Ms Fingelson says. "Then, if you switch her schedule again by an hour after the clocks have moved, hopefully she'll begin to regularly wake at 6am."
  3. On the day the clocks change, instead of putting bub down for the night at 6pm, try to keep them awake until 6:30pm.
  4. The following day, shift everything back half an hour - including naps and mealtimes. 
  5. If over-tiredness is an issue, only move their bedtime by 15 minutes at a time.

"After a few days - although some children take a week or longer - your baby should be back to their original schedule, that is going to sleep at 7pm," Ms Fingelson says.

Other tips for parents:

1. Read your baby's sleep cues. "Their internal clock is more powerful than an actual clock," the Sleep Coach says.
 
2. Be flexible: Daylight savings can wreak havoc on adults' sleeping patterns too - so it's no wonder little ones can be sensitive to the changes.
 
3. Make sure bub is warm enough at night: "One good thing about the end of daylight savings is that the nights get longer and the mornings and evenings are darker which often helps children sleep a little longer," says Ms Fingelson. 
 
4. Be mindful of the knock on effect of too much sleep at night, however, as day-time naps might shorten as a result.

Good luck!