Sleep and Time Zones

Leigh smiling

Everyone likes a fresh start come January, but my little family’s fresh start was a little more drastic than most. 

We decided to grasp life in both hands and follow our dreams by setting up a brand new life in Spain. Most families would find this far too stressful with an 18 month old in tow but we decided to get in touch with our inner hippies and offer our little man a new outdoors life in the sunshine, hoping to unleash his little hippy too!

As any mum does, I had lots of concerns for my little boy.  Will he settle ok, will he feel lonely, will he miss family and friends, will the travelling be too much, but what I didn’t worry about was how his sleep would be affected.  I was confident with all my sleep consultant skills that I would be able to tackle any issues that came my way! And plus with the time difference that would mean I could get up an hour later and start the day at 7am (much more parent friendly than the 6am start I had been suffering in the UK) Right?

My approach was to put Albie to sleep at exactly the same times as I had in the UK and he would be none the wiser that the clocks were different. I adjusted all the times in the day thinking that he would just slot into this new time zone without any problem.  Nap time started at 11am instead of 10am and all seemed breezy!

But then I started encountering issues. Albie started waking up earlier and although I stuck to my guns and didn’t go in until 7am he was then getting tired earlier than 11am and when I put him down he would only sleep for an hour and then be wide awake.  So I started implementing the early to bed strategy and before I knew it he had shifted himself back to that dreaded 6am wake up!

Two months on and life in Spain is going well.  Albie is happily waking up at 6am on the dot every morning and goes down for his two hour nap at 10am, just as he did in the UK.  We are all enjoying the outdoors lifestyle and are really glad we took the plunge and followed our dreams.

So what did I learn from my experience?  A number of things;

  • Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but some babies are just early birds, but remember any waking after 6am should be considered day time/acceptable to wake up and that’s a win!
  • All children pick up on environmental and schedule cues and adjust themselves naturally
  • If you are moving time zones try to adjust your child to the new time as quickly as possible
  • Knowledge is power, if you are moving somewhere new, always get as much information as you can and formulate a plan or strategy before you leave.

This brings me nicely onto the upcoming clock change in the UK on Sunday 29th March.  What advice can I give you on transitioning as smoothly as you can?

The trick to success is forward planning.  There are a number of approaches you can adopt for your little one.

Option 1 – The gradual approach. 

If you start on the Wednesday and move the bedtime back by 15 minutes each day, by the time you get to Saturday night they will be going down an hour early and be in line ready for the clock to spring forward.

Option 2 – The middle ground

On the Saturday night put your child to bed half an hour early in preparation for the change.

Option 3 – Cold turkey

Just put your child to bed at their normal time once the clocks have changed (so in theory an hour early)

It usually takes about a week for most children to adjust properly to the new time so be prepared for tweaks to their normal routine during the transition period. 

Good Luck!

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