Simple Steps Help Children Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

For years, you’ve been through the loss of an hour in the spring and the gain of an hour in the fall as part of daylight saving time. With the upcoming time change slated for 2 a.m. Sunday, March 11, adults may be used to it, but children, including teenagers, may not be.

The spring’s loss of an hour is usually the one that causes the most sleeping havoc, an expert says.

However, parents can lessen the effects of potential sleep deprivation with a few simple steps, says Dr. Philip Alapat, medical director, Sleep Disorders Center, Harris County Hospital District, and assistant professor, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

“While some adults are significantly affected by the time changes, children tend to have the most difficult time,” he says.

As a general rule, children should get 9-11 hours of sleep each day to ensure proper development and the best mental efforts for school. A decrease in hours of sleep or a disruption to sleeping patterns can have ripple effects throughout a family. 

Alapat recommends that parents adjust bedtimes for children a few days before the time change.

When adjusting bedtimes:
• Explain why you’re changing bedtime
• Try to maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
• Begin four days before the day of the time change
• Make bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day until it adds up to an hour the night of the time change

“Even though the clock says 9 p.m. after daylight saving time, your child’s body hasn’t fully adjusted to the new time,” he says. “The child’s body still think it’s 8 p.m., so putting him to sleep after the time change could be difficult.”

Common effects of not adjusting well to the time change include:
• Sleepiness
• Fatigue
• Feeling cranky
• Feeling restless and unfocused

In time, children and adults adapt well to daylight changes, but it could take a few days for sleeping patterns to get back to normal.

If sleeping problems persist, visit or consult your primary care physician or a sleep disorders specialist.



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