Tips to Help Kids and Parents Adjust to Daylight Savings Time

Ready or not, it’s coming: the annual switch to Daylight Savings Time. Unless you live in Hawaii (lucky you) or most parts of Arizona, you will be moving your clocks ahead 1 hour on Sunday March 10, 2019. Remember, this is the time of year we move our clocks forward, hence the term “Spring Ahead.” If you aren’t a fan of the time change and you are dreading the difficulties associated with changing your child’s sleep schedule, take heart. There are a few time-tested tips that will help lessen the stress!

Light Exposure

Our circadian rhythms, also referred to as our “body clocks,” are regulated by exposure to light and darkness. Some ways to speed up the adjustment to DST are:

1 – Get your kids (and yourself) outside early in the day and often throughout the day. Exposure to natural morning light is one of the strongest ways to influence our circadian rhythms. 

2 – Begin to darken your home by pulling drapes and blinds closed a bit earlier in the evening. As we are exposed to more darkness, our natural melatonin production begins. 

3 – If you haven’t already, now’s the time to invest in room-darkening or blackout blinds or curtains for your child’s room. Check out the selection here: https://blinds.lowes.com/f/Custom-Blackout-and-Darkening?limited=0&page=1&pageSize=18&sortCode=-Most%20Popular

Incremental Changes

The #1, absolutely TOP tip from professionals and experienced parents is:

1 – Make sleep schedule changes in 10-15 minute increments! Attempting 1 hour adjustments is too hard on young children and their parents. There are 2 ways to make this happen:

a. Start moving bedtimes and nap times back 10-15 minutes at least a week before the official beginning of DST. Add 10-15 more minutes every couple of days. This method is especially helpful for those with strict morning schedules and firm start times for work and school.

b. Start moving bedtimes and nap times back 10-15 minutes beginning on the day DST begins. So if your child normally goes to bed at 8:00 pm, you will actually put him to bed at 8:45 pm on the first night of DST. In a few days, you will move bedtime to 8:30 pm., etc.

Other Helpful Tips

1 – Plan ahead for the first week of DST. Minimize non-essential appointments, especially in the morning hours. 

2 –  Exercise, exercise, exercise! Exercise will increase serotonin and endorphin levels, which are helpful in regulating sleep and mood. When possible, take your kids outside to exercise! Physically tired children are much more likely to sleep well. The only exception is: don’t exercise right before bed time! 

3 – Strive for a calm, quiet, and dim environment for up to an hour before bedtime. Eliminate screens during this time and try a bedtime routine of a warm bath and reading. 

Special Considerations for Kids with Special Needs

Many kids on the Autism Spectrum, or with other special needs, already have sleep difficulties. Time changes throw a wrench into an already rough situation. While there’s no miracle solution, here are a couple of ideas for parents to consider:

1 – Talk with your child’s pediatrician about using melatonin supplements. There are many OTC varieties in either gummy or tablet form. Be aware that melatonin supplements come in strengths ranging from 1 milligram to over 10, so it’s important to discuss with your child’s doctor which strength is right for him.

2 – Ask your child’s Occupational Therapist for help with bedtime or sleep struggles. Often the professionals who know your child can offer great tips!

3 – For kids with severe sleep challenges, consider getting an evaluation from a professional sleep consultant. Check here: www.internationalsleep.org to find one in your area.

As a parent, expect some difficulty during any time change. The adjustment typically takes a week or so, but some kids need as long as 2-3 weeks to adjust. In between extra cups of coffee (for parents), take heart that Spring and warmer weather is just around the corner!