Your baby’s body clock or circadian rhythm is affected by factors such as their feeding schedule, exposure to light, and bedtime routine.
Getting your baby on a regular sleep schedule can be challenging enough on its own, but getting them to adjust to daylight saving time or other time shifts can be even more difficult. Here are tips for changing your baby’s body clock and getting their sleep schedule back on track.
5 tips for changing your baby’s body clock
1. Establish a bedtime routine
Sticking to a regular bedtime routine is essential, even around daylight saving time. Your baby’s internal clock is significantly affected by routine, so maintain a consistent bedtime and establish a routine that signals to your baby that it’s time to wind down. Your bedtime routine may involve bath time, reading together, or any other activities that help them settle into sleep.
2. Encourage daytime naps
Keeping your baby up all day will not help them sleep through the night. In fact, it not only makes nighttime sleep more difficult, but it also interferes with their brain development. Continue your baby’s normal nap schedule and make sure they don’t get overtired during the day.
3. Adjust nighttime feeds
If your baby falls asleep at the breast or bottle regularly, it could indicate that your baby is becoming dependent on feeding to fall asleep. Consider feeding your baby earlier in the evening so that it is not part of their bedtime routine; this can also reduce the number of feedings needed during the night.
If your baby is developing normally, it is safe to consider discontinuing night feeds at 6 months (for bottle-fed babies) and at 12 months (for breastfed babies). However, you can decide what is best for you and your baby.
4. Try rocking or cuddling
Some infants grow accustomed to sleeping while being rocked or cuddled. Other infants like to be around with the rest of the family until they fall asleep, such as in the living room.
When your baby wakes up in a different location than where they went to sleep, they may struggle to adjust. Therefore, it may be beneficial to put your infant to bed when they are sleepy but still aware of the surroundings. This allows your baby to connect falling asleep with being in bed and can help them settle down when they wake up in the middle of the night.
5. Keep your baby active during the day
Make sure that your home is well-lit during the day so that your baby is exposed to natural sunlight. When they are awake, keep them active with playing, feeding, speaking, singing, and other activities. Your baby will learn that daytime is for playing and nighttime is for sleeping.
How does the body clock work?
Body clocks in children are governed by the same two systems as in adults:
- Hemostasis: Stability in bodily conditions regulates the length and depth of sleep. A child’s degree of tiredness is impacted by the duration and quality of their most recent sleep, as well as the time since they last slept. Sleep is impacted also by the child's sleep requirements, since the amount of sleep required by each child varies.
- Circadian rhythm: Circadian rhythm regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is altered by daily exposure to light and dark. Steadily declining light in the evening stimulates the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which aids in sleep. In the morning, sunshine stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol, which suppresses melatonin production and signals the body to wake up. It takes time for newborns to develop a mature body clock, and they tend to wake up every 3-4 hours until they get a little older.
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Jana LA, Shu J. Reversing Day-Night Reversal. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Reversing-Day-Night-Reversal.aspx
Penfield Building Blocks. How I Helped My Baby Set His Internal Clock. https://penfieldbuildingblocks.org/personal-perspectives/how-i-helped-my-baby-set-his-internal-clock/
WebMD. Baby Got You Up At Night? https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/setting-babys-clock
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