Prep Children's Sleep Schedule for Daylight Saving Time - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 08, 2016

Prep Children's Sleep Schedule for Daylight Saving Time

Crozer-Keystone's pediatric sleep program offers specialized care for our youngest patients.

Crozer-Keystone's pediatric sleep program offers
specialized care for our youngest patients.

When we spring clocks forward an hour on March 13, we’ll be gaining longer days and more sunlight. But, that comes at the cost of a lost hour of sleep.

You yourself will likely struggle with the sleep loss, but so will your kids. Waking them up for school on Monday morning is tough enough, but trying to wake them up when their little bodies are telling them it’s earlier than usual makes it that much more difficult. In fact, sleep loss tends to be even tougher on children – they need more sleep and don’t tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults. Losing even just one hour of sleep can affect a child’s mood, appetite and attention span.

Instead of dealing with a tough couple of mornings, there are some things you can do to make the time change easier on all of you.

Tuck Them into Bed Earlier

Don’t just try to put them to bed earlier the night before – start gradually putting them to bed a little earlier a few days before. About four days before, tuck them in 15 minutes earlier than usual. Then next night, put them to bed 20 or 30 minutes earlier, and so on until it’s about an hour before their usual bed time. You can also start gradually waking them up earlier each day too.

Then, when the clocks change, it will feel like they’re going to bed and waking up at the same time they were before. This gradual change and won’t be as much of a shock to their system.

If your kids are a little older – or old enough to see the clock doesn’t say their bedtime yet – and you can’t get them to go to bed earlier, focus on just waking them up earlier before Daylight Saving Time begins. This too will get them used to waking up a bit earlier and maybe even help you get them into bed earlier at night.

Stick To a Bedtime Routine

An established bedtime routine helps create a powerful signal for sleep for your kids. And when they’re dealing with a schedule change that may throw their system off, their bedtime routine becomes even more important. Despite what the clock says, it may not feel like bedtime to your child until you start going through your normal bedtime rituals. A common bedtime routine that tends to work for most children is a warm bath followed by reading a book and cuddling before turning the lights out.

Be Mindful Of Lights

The hormone melatonin helps you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. And lightness and darkness directly affect the secretion of melatonin – your body increases its production of this hormone when it gets dark out to help you fall asleep and stops producing it when it’s light out, increasing your wakefulness and alertness.

This process is the same for your child.

One of the difficult parts of adjusting to Daylight Saving Time is that it throws this natural cycle out of sync. Your child may not understand why you’re trying to put them to bed if it’s still somewhat light out or you wake them up while it’s dark.

You can counteract this until they adjust to the change in time by dimming the lights in their bedroom and turning off electronics about 30 minutes to an hour before their bedtime. And then in the morning, expose your kids to as much light as possible.

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