Young girl sleeping in advance of Daylight Saving Time

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A parent's guide to daylight saving time

In the U.S., daylight saving time is the advancement of the clock by one hour from March to November. This year, daylight saving time will start at 2 a.m., Sunday, March 8, and end on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. The largest concern with daylight saving time is sleep deprivation and the consequences that follow. Sleep deprivation in children can lead to over tiredness, irritability and cause difficulty for the entire the family. So, what can you do to lessen the burden of daylight saving time on your children and yourself?

Know how much sleep is needed

Knowing the best time for your child to sleep—as well as how much sleep to get each night—is essential. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released new sleep recommendations for how many hours to get per night for different stages in life.

Sleep amounts by age

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

It is okay if your child or you do not meet the recommendation, as long as there is no daytime fatigue or decline in function. Each individual is unique.

Adjust sleep patterns early

At least a week prior to the start or end of daylight saving time, gradually adjust the child's schedule toward the new time. For the end of daylight saving time, the child can simply stay up later than usual and stay asleep a bit longer by the same interval. An increment of 10-15 minutes every other day is reasonable. This change in schedule should also be true for all that you're able to adjust in his or her daytime activities. This method can be used in reverse for the start of daylight saving time, or advancement of the clock. For most people, waking up earlier may be more difficult. Adjusting sleep patterns can take about one week. Try to take advantage of the hours that the sun is shining as much as possible.  

Recognize circadian rhythm

Another key point to be aware of is circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock. People can be early birds or night owls, but for the most part, our circadian cycle is about 24 hours. Recognizing your child's internal clock can help clue you in as to his or her sleep pattern. Fortunately, the internal clock for most people can be adjusted to adapt to the person's lifestyle, but it also changes with development.  

Establish healthy sleep habits

Ultimately, having good sleep hygiene will help your child adjust to daylight saving time. If the child does not have a structured sleep routine, it may be more difficult to apply a successful change. Good sleep hygiene means: 

  • Having a regular sleep and wake schedule, a set bedtime and if they wake up too early, there should be a rule for quiet activity before beginning the day.
  • Using the bedroom only for sleeping.
  • Making the sleep environment comfortable for sleep considering the lighting, temperature, bedspread and blanket, noise, smell, etc. Essentially, comfort for the five senses.
  • Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Not eating a big meal or caffeinated beverages prior to bedtime.
  • Not exercising at least three hours before bedtime.
  • No screen time before bed (including tablet and cellphone) or television in the bedroom.

Some children may wonder about the change and want to know why one day they are sleeping and waking up at different times from the usual. Children are very bright and deserve to know what is going on. A good explanation can sometimes win their participation.

Keep these sleep tips in mind for yourself and your child come November when we fall back an hour, along with Five things to do when Daylight Saving Time ends.

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