Daylight saving time can bring a welcome end to the short, dark days of winter, but it can also disrupt the natural sleep cycles of adults and children.
Simply put, daylight saving time is not always fun. It is tough on adults, but it can be even tougher on kids! As young children need more sleep, any interruption such sleep deprivation is often not well-tolerated. The loss of just one hour can affect a child's attention span, appetite, and overall disposition.
Now, here is some good news: There are steps you can take to mitigate any adverse effects of daylight saving time. The following are tips that can help as you will be setting the clocks forward soon.
Take Some Early Action
Do not wait to set the clock forward an hour and expect your child to adapt immediately! It takes time to adjust to the loss of an hour of sleep. A good idea is to start preparation about four days ahead of the change by shifting bedtime about 15 minutes earlier each evening, so if your child goes to bed at 8:00 pm, have the child go to be at 7:45, on the first night, the 7:30 and so on until bedtime is as close to 7:00 as possible. Also, wake your child earlier as well. Taking these steps helps your child adapt without a shock to the system when you expect your child to fall asleep an hour earlier after the time change.
Control the Lights
The human body’s internal clock is regulated with the help of a hormone called melatonin. It increases in the evening as it becomes dark, which helps induce sleep, and shuts down when it's light out. Light in the morning then increases wakefulness and alertness. Daylight saving time throws the sleep cycle off a bit and can be more difficult for the kids.
Try dimming the lights in your child's bedroom and turning off all electronics from 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. In the morning, try to get as much light as possible into your child’s bedroom. Natural sunlight is best. If weather does not cooperate, turn on the lights in the house so it's nice and bright, but sunlight is much better for children than indoor lighting.
Encourage your children to get outside and exercise. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day will help your children sleep easier and adjust to time changes.
Bedtime Routine is Important
When daylight saving time begins or ends, be sure to stick to a bedtime routine. A regular routine during bedtime is vital for young children – it provides an effective signal for sleep. It can help to give your child a warm bath, reading a book together and snuggle before lights out.
Choosing Not to Gradually Adjust Sleep Times
If you choose not to gradually adjust sleep times, or if you simply forgot, take other steps to help your children. Consider waking your children an hour earlier on the day before daylight saving time begins. This will make it easier for them to fall asleep and get a full night’s sleep. Consider a nap. A brief early afternoon nap after a time change helps everyone catch up on sleep and will not interfere with that night’s sleep. These naps should be no longer than 20 minutes.
Try to be Sympathetic
In the days following daylight saving time, try to be more forgiving of your child. Remember, if your child is having trouble adjusting, they may exhibit more grumpiness and irritation. This is annoying, but they did not create daylight saving time. Be patient. Talk to your child about how they are feeling.
Don’t Forget Yourself!
With all the focus on your kid's sleep, don't forget to take care of yourself, too! Many adults feel sluggish and cranky themselves after the daylight saving time switch, so make sure you get the rest you need as well.
Anticipating the change and plan for minor adjustments to your household’s schedule is a good way to mitigate the consequences of resulting of any sleep loss as you and your family adjust to daylight saving time. Remember: These effects are short-lived -- within a week or so, everything should be back to normal.
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