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CARE

Tips to help kids adjust to daylight savings time

A regular sleep schedule is incredibly important to a child's health. Lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of issues, from irritability to struggles in school, and is a problem I see routinely in my pediatric practice. The vast majority of kids do so much better when they have a routine and go to bed and get up at same time every day.

So what do you do when daylight savings comes along and wreaks havoc on your kids, especially toddlers and younger school-age children?

As a dad and pediatrician, here are my suggestions on how to make the transition easier.

The best approach is to plan ahead and adjust bedtime routines a little at a time. A week before daylight saving begins, try to move the entire routine — bath, book and bed, or whatever your bedtime routine is — up by 10 to 15 minutes each night. Instead of putting them to bed at 7 p.m., try it at 6:50 p.m., and the next night at 6:40 p.m. and so on. By Saturday night, your child should be going to bed by 6 p.m., which is the new 7 p.m.

Now, I wasn't always good at planning ahead. So, if you are like me and didn't plan ahead for the time change you might realize it's suddenly 7 p.m. and bedtime. But to your child it feels like 6 p.m. and they don't want to go to bed. When we didn't plan ahead and my daughters were younger, my wife and I let our girls stay up to 7:50 p.m. the first night (which was 6:50 p.m. to them) and gradually moved bedtime back to 7 p.m. over the week.

Another challenge when we spring forward is that it's lighter outside at bedtime. It often helps to have blinds or window coverings to make the room darker and make them feel like it is their regular bedtime.

Mornings can present another set of challenges. In this case, planning ahead makes getting up a lot easier as you typically won't have leeway in the mornings to let them sleep in another hour. Do the same thing in the morning as the night and gradually move up their wake-up time the week before.

And finally, a reminder I always tell my patients: despite how sleepy you may be, daylight savings is a good time to change your smoke alarm batteries.

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