Helping children adjust to the daylight-saving time change
Sunday, March 9 at 2 a.m. signals the beginning of Daylight-Saving Time (DST), when children across the country will have their clocks turned ahead and lose an hour of much-needed sleep each night - making the morning routine, daily school activities and extra-curricular commitments that much more hectic.
But with a couple of well-planned adjustments, the time shift needn't be a difficult one. Because children's sleep needs do not decrease and remain vitally important to their overall health, it's important for parents to consider the potential negative impact of losing just one hour of sleep - especially in light of the fact that many children age seven to 12 gradually begin to have later bedtimes.
Daylight-Saving Time, which affects a quarter of the world's population and entails a one-hour change twice a year, reflects a change in social clocks - not just biological ones, and new studies are showing that children don't actually adjust to these changes in time so easily - especially the "spring-forward" one. And for parents, this minimal loss of sleep can wreak havoc on children's natural sleep systems. Here are 10 tips parents can follow to ensure their children gain a good night's sleep despite the time change:
* Make sure that your child is well rested, prior to the change.
* Maintain your child's regular sleep, wake and nap times. Try not to compensate for the lost hour by delaying bedtime or allowing your child to sleep in. This will increase the time it takes to transition. There may be some crankiness from being tired, but this should last only a day or two.
* Make gradual adjustments. Some parents find it is best to try to start making adjustments on Saturday night rather than wait until Sunday, a school night. Try making a slow transition starting on Thursday night before the time change, moving your child's bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night. By Sunday night you will be right back on schedule.
* Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
* Use a supportive and clean pillow that is properly suited to your child's sleep needs. Sites like SleepBetter.org offer a Zzzz Score(tm) test to help identify kids' individual sleep scores and needs.
* Exercise regularly. They should have completed their exercise about 4 hours before bed.
* Avoid caffeine, as this can disrupt sleep.
* Do not use OTC sleep meds (Benadryl®) to knock them out. As you will be preventing their natural ability to change over time.
* Approximately 1 hour before bed begin the winding down process including hygiene, reading, etc. No internet or video games. Try a relaxing routine, like soaking in hot water (a hot tub or bath) before bedtime.
* Remember, your child will adjust to the time change within a few days to a week.
The Daylight-Saving Time change may be just days away, but there is still time to ensure that the shift does not negatively impact children's sleep schedules and daily routines. By following just ten simple tips, parents and children alike can ease gradually into the change and go about their lives with little to no additional stress. For more tips on sleep improvement, visit SleepBetter.org.