Kids need 10 hours of sleep a night to feel rested and ready for their day. Teens need 8 to 10 hours. Daylight saving time (DST) can disrupt sleep, even for children, and lead to temporary sleep deprivation. The physical response to daylight saving time is a lot like jet lag: our natural circadian rhythms don’t match what’s going on around us. How can you help your child adjust to the time change?
Start with a good foundation
It’s easier if your family already has good sleep habits. Here’s what that means:
- You have a consistent bedtime and wake up time every day.
- You turn off electronics two hours before bedtime, and don’t keep phones or TVs in the bedroom.
- Family members get physical activity every day.
- You stop consuming caffeine early in the afternoon.
- You sleep in quiet, dark, cool rooms.
If you don’t already practice good sleep hygiene, get started now.
One week before daylight saving time begins, start moving your child’s bedtime back a few minutes each day. By the big day, you’ll already have the kids on a schedule. Teens may resist, but explain your reasons and allow them to read in bed.
Make sure to wake kids up a few minutes early each morning as well. If you can adjust dinner time and other important daily events, you’ll find that the transition will be easier.
Avoid stressful activities in the days after the time change if you can. The big room cleaning or long road trip could be pushed out a few days.
Respond to the time change
The first day you Spring Forward, get out into the sun as early as possible. Getting plenty of light helps your body reset its circadian rhythms. Take up a family morning walk or have breakfast on the patio. If it’s too cold, pick a sunny window to sit near.
Restrict teen drivers’ drive time for a few days after the time change. Drivers are more likely to have accidents in the days after the time change, and younger drivers may be especially susceptible.
Cut yourself and your kids some slack. Feeling a little tired and cranky is normal in the first few days after the time change… for you and your kids. While there is some evidence that time shifts can have lasting effects for some people, most of us will adjust within a week or so.