Preparing Your Kids for Daylight Savings Time

That hung-over feel that you get when you haven’t had enough sleep sets a difficult tone for the day. Even worse, when children don’t sleep long enough, the resulting grogginess, caused by sleep deprivation affects their appetite, attention capacity, and overall disposition. The occasional late night is one thing, but the week or two of sleep disturbances caused by the Spring time change to Daylight Saving can wreak havoc on family life. 

Each year, between March 8 and March 14 in the U.S., most states (excepting Arizona) adjust clocks forward one hour from 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM where it remains until the Fall adjustment back to Standard Time. That means for one day each Spring, there are only 23 hours accounted for with the lost hour regained later in the year. That lost hour most often means one less hour of sleep.

Plan ahead

Since you know it’s coming, take steps to mitigate it affecting your children.

  • Shift meals. Your child’s digestive system has a lot to do with their sleep patterns. Beginning about a week ahead of the time change, start adjusting the evening meal 5 to 10 minutes earlier each day. That way, your child’s system is in the new “time” before you reach it.
  • Adjust bedtimes. Again, start your bedtime routine a few minutes earlier each day. Just 10 minutes a day gets you in the zone right on schedule. That means, bath times, story time, and pajama time begin just a little earlier than the day before. Small children may hardly notice the change. Get older children on board with rewards of special movies instead of television so that you can control the ending time.
  • In the same way, change up waking times. If you usually wake your child at 7:00 AM, aim for 6:50 AM the first day, 6:40 the second and so one. When the time changes, you’re right on schedule at 7:00 AM again.
  • Just as you did with dinner, adjust breakfast as well. If your children attend school, there’s not much you can do about lunchtime, but when they’re home, make lunch just that much earlier too.
  • Adjust the lights. The sleep hormone melatonin increases as it gets darker. When it hits its highest is when you naturally fall asleep. So, to induce earlier sleep times, adjust the lighting in your home to match.
  • Beware of blue light. The light emitted from electronics, such as computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets, is in the spectrum of sunlight, meaning that it interrupts the production of melatonin. Use the internal light adjustment on your computer, or add a light-adjusting software such as CareUEyes or f.lux to phones, computers, or tablets, and set it to the new time so that it adjusts light based on where you want to be in a week. Then, turn off all electronics about 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Use room-darkening shades if lights from outside make the indoors to bright.

Take care of yourself too. Be sure to follow these rules for yourself also. Instead of over-air television, switch to streaming Hulu or Netflix and adjust your screen time to the new schedule. Be sure to get extended family, neighbors, and friends on board too, so that they don’t interrupt your sleep times and undo all your hard efforts.