Daylight Saving Time is this Sunday, and for many of us, the loss of one hour’s sleep can sometimes feel like a household crisis. Why? Because of the havoc it wreaks on your family’s schedule. Kids who have been sleeping on firm schedules for years can suddenly start waking up at odd hours of the night, tearful and confused. Parents who really need that extra hour of sleep can feel sluggish and groggy all day at work. As a physician and pediatric sleep expert with a background in childhood sleep disorders, I’ve seen countless families suffer from the cumulative effects of having too little sleep. But fear not, you too can avoid the sleep trap. Below are some of my Top Tips to Survive the Daylight Saving Time Change.
What, if anything, can parents do leading up to the time change to avoid the pain of Daylight Saving Time? Go to bed early and often, You can prep for the lack of one hour’s sleep by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night for a week to several days leading up to the clock change. Going further, you can adjust your family’s household schedule gradually, by tapering naps, meals and bedtimes increments the week leading up to the Daylight Saving Time “spring forward” on Sunday, March 13. Or you can get around Mother Nature by installing room-darkening or black-out shades in the child’s nursery or bedroom. Make sure the entire family is well-rested leading up to the time change, so that everybody is up to dealing patiently with earlier than usual risers, and grumpier than usual little ones.
My family and I have a hard enough time falling asleep. What are some ways to get the family to settle in more easily? Start the process of winding down an hour or two before the family goes to bed. Give children a relaxing bath. Dim their bedroom lights. Read a calming story. For adults, this means easing up on the alcohol or caffeine during the two hours prior to your bedtime. Be sure to limit your water intake in the evening to avoid bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.
Should I read before bed to help me wind down? Sure, just try to make it a paperback. A 2014 study from the National Academy of Sciences found that the use of electronic devices such as e-readers and tablets right before bed can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep, delay the circadian clock and suppress the natural levels of melatonin present in the body and reduce alertness in the morning. All of this will decrease your chances of having a good night’s sleep during Daylight Saving Time, when you need it the most.
What if my child suffers from nightmares or sleep terrors? How will the time change impact them? First of all, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that sleep disorders like sleepwalking and night terrors affect nearly 25% of American children. The problem is, when one family member suffers from a sleep disorder, studies show the entire family tends to suffer from increased stress and lack of sleep. Luckily there are some new technologies designed to help re-adjust children’s sleep patterns so they can avoid the problem all together. If a child has a night terror during Daylight Saving week, the best thing to do is let the episode run its course and try to get to bed earlier the following night.
If parents do not do anything to prepare for the time change to DST, how long does it typically take for children to adjust to the lost hour of sleep? It generally can take a few days to one week to naturally adjust to the one-hour time difference. Try to get some sun exposure in the morning, which can help families synchronize to the new time change more easily.
Conclusion: All told, if you start the process of adjusting for the loss of an hour’s sleep due to Daylight Saving Time now, Sunday’s “Spring Forward” relatively well-rested. After all, who wouldn’t want that?
Dr. Andy Rink Bio:
Dr. Andy Rink is a physician and a sleep specialist with a specialty in childhood sleep disorders. Dr. Rink developed groundbreaking research at the Stanford University Sleep Center, the leading sleep research facility in the world. Dr. Rink has appeared in multiple news articles and media interviews, and has published in multiple medical journals on sleep disorders. He has created several medical devices, including the Lully Sleep Guardian, which solves the problem of night terrors in children. He lives in San Francisco with his (well rested) wife and daughter.