Well it's that time of year again when the weather warms up, flowers begin to bloom, and it's time to "Spring Forward." Daylight Savings this year is Sunday, March 12th. For most adults, the very thought of losing an hour of sleep seems dreadful. That feeling of not getting enough sleep and pure grogginess can linger on for days, but we don't always realize how this change can effect our children.
"Young children need more sleep and don't tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults," explains Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of sleep medicine at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. "The loss of just one hour can really affect a child's attention span, appetite, and overall mood." These tips will help you and your family get into the groove of things.
Get Enough Sleep Prior to Daylight Savings Time
In the days before you change your clocks, make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep. Going into daylight savings time well-rested will greatly help your child because they won't be cranky and overtired.
Take Baby Steps
You can't just set your clocks forward an hour and expect your child to instantly become in sync. Like adults, it takes children some time to adapt to that loss of sleep. To help adjust, try gradually shifting your kid's bedtime in preparation for daylight saving time. So if your child goes to bed at 8 p.m., a few days before the time change, put them to bed at 7:45 p.m., then 7:30 p.m., and so on until he's going to bed as close to 7 p.m. as possible.
Daylight savings time may mean your child will need to start winding down a little bit sooner than usual. Again, you should do this gradually. Keep evening activities very calm.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body's internal circadian clock. It increases in the evening as it becomes dark, which helps induce sleep, and shuts down when it's light out, which can then increase wakefulness and alertness.
But daylight saving time throws that natural cycle out of whack a bit, and that can be particularly difficult for kids. To help, try dimming the lights in your child's bedroom and turning off all electronics about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. (According to The National Sleep Foundation, such devices can reduce sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime alertness because of the light exposure as well as the fact that they engage the brain right before bedtime.)
Stick to a Routine
When daylight saving time begins or ends, it's especially important to stick with a bedtime routine, as your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw them off. "For young children, it's absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime," says Dr. Lewin. "That's what helps create a powerful signal for sleep."
In the days following daylight saving time, try to be more forgiving if your child is throwing extra temper tantrums and seems to be particularly frustrated or difficult in any way. "The time change can cause such short-term changes in your child's mood, but your understanding and support will help him or her adjust a little better," Dr. Lewin says.
Don't forget to take care of yourself too! Many adults feel sluggish and even cranky themselves after the daylight saving time switch, so make sure you're getting the rest you need as well, so you're not overly irritable with your child.