Whether we set our clocks to “fall back” one hour each November or “spring ahead” an hour with Daylight Saving Time every March (this year, it’s this Sunday, March 10), our internal, circadian clocks must adjust. It doesn’t take long — maybe a day or two — for most adults to adjust to the minor one-hour time change that occurs twice a year, although there is some research suggesting adults are at increased risk for suffering fatal traffic accidents and heart attacks in the day to two following the change. But children are different, pediatrician, Dr. Scott Krugman, reminds us:

In general, the more routine sleep time is, the easier any transition is handled. Children who develop sleep routines from a young age and learn to fall asleep on their own at a predetermined time are much more likely to adapt to changes like daylight saving time much easier than those who don’t have routine schedules. The more consistent parents can be with sticking to these schedules, the quicker their children will return to their baseline.

 

Dr. Krugman says infants and toddlers should fare pretty well when they wake up on Sunday morning. So should their parents:

Young children often fall asleep early, sleep 10 to 12 hours, and then wake up early. If your child follows this pattern, you probably can’t wait until the clocks spring forward: The overnight change of one hour actually gives parents an extra hour of sleep (i.e., if your child wakes up at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.). No need to plan, no need to change your sleep schedule for your infant. Just roll with their sleep times and enjoy your extra hour of sleep.

 

Teenagers can be a bit more challenging:

Very few children who have to wake up for an early school bus get enough sleep. Between after-school activities, homework, TV, video games and group texting chats, they’re lucky if they are in bed before 10 p.m.

As a parent, your best bet is to help your school-aged child prepare for daylight saving a week ahead of time. Try to have them turn off the electronics earlier or cut back on TV time so they can get to bed closer to, say, 9 p.m. rather than 10 p.m., so when the clock moves forward the impact won’t be quite as harsh. Generally, enforcing a strict sleep schedule, with at least one hour away from bright screens prior to bedtime, will help your child fall asleep.

 

We’ve discovered previously on The PediaBlog why getting a good night’s sleep is so important in promoting good health:

We learned yesterday that elephants function very well on very little sleep. We know that humans don’t. Getting enough good quality sleep each night has been shown to maintain good physical and mental health and improve quality of life, safety, and performance of daily tasks like learning, working, and playing. While adults might get used to either short or chronic periods of sleep deprivation and not recognize the detriment to their well-being, the AAP warns parents that children are particularly vulnerable due to lack of sleep:

Regular sleep deprivation often leads to some pretty difficult behaviors and health problems—irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypertension, obesity, headaches, and depression. Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, and better school performance, behavior, memory, and mental health.

 

Read more on The PediaBlog about the health benefits of, and obstacles to, sleeping well here.

 

(Google Images)