There is one thing that I think most parents haven’t planned for when they have kids, and that’s the effect that the clock changes have on their sleeping patterns. Hands up all those parents who’ve spent a week staggering out of bed at an ungodly hour because the clocks may have changed, but our children’s body clocks have not?
I have to admit that the week before the clocks change I tend to be filled with trepidation. How tired am I going to be? Will it be a series of 5am starts? You see, my child is a verrrry early riser anyway, so when the clocks change I feel a bit like I needn’t bother going to bed in the first place.
Interestingly, Hallmark cards recently commissioned a study on child sleep patterns and how they are affected by the clocks going back. They questioned over 1,000 British mums and dads with preschool children and the research showed that almost two thirds of parents said that their kids sleep routines were strongly affected when the clocks went back.
Now, that bit is pretty self evident, I know but the amount of sleep time we lose is quite significant and this then makes us crabby which then means everyone in the house gets a bit ratty around the edges. How many of you ended up having a pointless argument with your partner because you were tired and grouchy?
Yeah, me too.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we prepare for the inevitable clock drama and how it affects our lives? Well, children’s sleep expert and Channel 4 psychologist, Chireal Shallow, said that, “It is key to keep your child’s routine as regular as possible when the clocks go back as it can throw sleep routines out of kilter. Stick to the same time you begin your bath, book, and bed routine, and this will help you stay on the right path to slumber.”
I have to agree. I have implemented, and stuck to, a night routine since my child was born. I have no idea if it is the reason why she was sleeping through from six weeks old, but she did and so I have been faithful with the routine. The same applies when I am faced with Clockgate.
The survey said that eight out of ten parents questioned believed that a regular bedtime routine was important. Although, and this is interesting, ten percent of the parents questioned have never read their child a bedtime story. Now, research done by Chireal has shown that reading a bedtime story can have a really positive effect on your child’s sleep.”
“A routine would not be right without a bedtime storybook as it gives many parents the chance to spend some quality time with their children, and puts both you and your child in a good mood before bed,” said Chireal, “Such simple measures can make a massive difference.”
Another expert, Jessica Alexander from The Sleep Council, said that bedtime issues could be avoided with simple steps to get children in the mood for sleep. “As well as a good bedtime storybook and a warm bath, parents should also ensure that their child has plenty of fresh air, exercise and a healthy diet.”
“You should also try and keep bedtime around the same time each evening – remember young children don’t know when they are tired so will try every excuse to stop you from putting them to bed,” she concluded.
It makes me smile, though. I remember wanting to stay away all hours just in case I missed something, and having the energy to keep on going for hours. It seems a bit about-face doesn’t it? We should have that energy now, while we are battling babies and poor sleep patterns. Now, all I want is to sleep at every available opportunity!
There are plenty of resources out there designed to help you develop a sound bedtime routine. Books like The Baby Book: How To Enjoy Year One by Rachel Waddilove, or (for the more hardcore parent) Gina Ford’s series, will set out routines for you. Or you can just ensure that you stick to the same times and patterns over the night time period.
A bedtime story, a dark room, a warm and toasty bath, a comforter or favourite toy, and soft voices and cuddles are all brilliant ingredients for baking up a successful sleep time. For parents really struggling with sleep issues there is a wealth of information on the net, including support forums with other parents and experts to help you through the dark times.
Hopefully some of you have managed to escape from the clock changing relatively unscathed. For those of you still staggering about at horrible hours, use this research, grab a gander on the net, and I’ll see you online at 4am…