Adjusting our clocks to “spring ahead” an hour in March and “fall behind” an hour in November has been a practice in the U.S. since the early 1900s. The idea of having that extra hour of daylight during the spring and summer months is appealing, but the transition from standard time to daylight saving time or vice versa can be a challenge for many. This is especially true for parents with little ones. Losing or gaining an hour of sleep can throw off their natural rhythms and schedules.
The time change may also have an impact on your child’s energy levels. This is especially true as changes to your circadian rhythm can impact sleep-wake patterns, which in turn may cause problems for up to a week or more after switching over to a new time.
Daylight Saving Time and Sleep Routines
Often, your sleep routine is what’s most affected by time changes. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule for a child or adolescent is important for their development and mental health. It may be helpful to think about how daylight-saving time will influence your family’s sleep routine and make adjustments ahead of time. Here are a few tips to help you and your family ease the transition from a sleep perspective:
- Get enough exercise, preferably at the same time each day (but not late at night)
- Get enough sleep (children 9–11 hours, adults 7–9 hours)
- Keep a regular bedtime ritual (this may include taking a warm bath or reading together)
- Limit screen time for at least an hour or two before bedtime
- On the day of the time change, adjust your clocks before you go to bed
- Stick to a routine (go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends)
- Take a short nap (no more than 30 minutes)
- Take in lots of bright sunlight early in the day and avoid bright lights in the evening
Fuel Your Body With Good Nutrition
Giving your body the nutrition it needs will keep your energy levels up. This includes:
- Choose whole grain foods over simple carbohydrates like white bread or white rice
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Eat lean protein and avoid meat high in saturated fat
- Eat low-fat dairy, such as cheese or yogurt
- Use healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil when you cook
- Snack smart (choose whole fruits and vegetables or high-protein snacks such as nut butters to keep you energized between meals)
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and sugar intake
Make a Plan That’s Right for Your Family
Planning ahead and getting your family involved will make the transition easier for everyone.
Post reminders on the calendar to tell your family the time change is coming. Set a meeting time for the week before you “spring forward” or “fall back.” Then, during the meeting, work together on a family plan that will make the most of the time change and help ease the transition for all. Your plan can cover everything from setting alarms for each family member to prepping an easy breakfast to ensure a smooth morning after the time change.
If you feel your child is struggling with the time change or is experiencing unusual sleep patterns, let your pediatrician know. To find a pediatrician near you, please visit AdventHealthforChildren.com/PrimaryCare . If your child may need the support of a neuroscience expert, visit AdventHealthforChildren.com/Neuro .