It’s medical fact that young children need more sleep and don’t tolerate lack of sleep as well as adults do. Even the loss of one hour of sleep can have big effects on a child’s attention span, overall mood, and even appetite. That’s why it’s so important to help your child adjust to changes in time. The tips shown below can help your kids gradually adjust to a new schedule whether you are setting your clocks forward (in the spring) or back (in the fall).
Start shifting the schedule.
In the spring, if your child normally goes to bed at 8:30pm, have him or her go to bed fifteen minutes earlier starting four or five days ahead of the time change. That way, they will be adjusted to the new time schedule when it starts. It’s also helpful to wake your children up a little earlier each day, so they will be getting approximately the same amount of sleep. During the fall, you would want to reverse the process and push the bedtime and wake times a little later to help your children adjust.
Control light exposure.
Light plays a big role in the sleep process. To help adjust to a new sleep schedule, try dimming the lights in your child’s bedroom and turning off all electronic devices about 45 minutes or so before bedtime. (The light exposure from TVs, smart phones and tablets can prevent getting a good night’s sleep.) In the morning, turn on the lights inside the house so it’s nice and bright and put window shades up. Having direct exposure to morning light is also helpful, so consider having breakfast on the deck or patio if you can. Remember that in the fall, you may need to give your child some light exposure in the early evening and make sure their room isn’t too bright in the morning to help their internal “body clock” adjust to the change in schedule.
Stay with your routine
For young children especially, it’s important to stick to bedtime routines. Whether giving your child a warm bath or reading a book before bedtime, routines are an important sleep signal that shouldn’t be ignored. So be sure to stick with them during the clock changes that daylight savings time brings. Getting a consistent good night’s sleep each night of the week can also help your child deal with the clock changes that come twice a year.
Take it all in stride
Just as you can become cranky and irritable when dealing with a lack of sleep, your child can too. So some changes in mood should be expected during yearly time changes. Following the tips above should help keep them to a minimum. Fortunately, the affects from daylight savings time usually only last about a week at the most. So even if things don’t go perfectly your children should be back to normal quicker than you think.
Don’t forget to “fall back” this weekend
Remember that Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00am on Sunday, Nov. 1, which means you will need to turn your clocks back an hour before you go to bed on Saturday night. This annual tradition means sunset will come a lot earlier in the day but at least we all get to sleep in a little on Sunday morning.
About Michelle Dalal, MD
As a mother herself, pediatrician Dr. Michelle Dalal has learned a lot from raising her two children. “You learn a lot as a parent, particularly in the infancy and toddler stage on how to deal with things,” she explains. “I think being a parent makes a big difference in terms of how you treat pediatric patients. I get a lot of questions about immunizations, I get a lot of questions about how to make sure a child’s diet remains...View profile View posts by this doctor