Daylight Saving Time (DST) kicks off on Sunday, March 8th at 2 a.m., causing us all to “spring forward” and lose one precious hour of sleep.
The yearly time change is controversial — turns out it doesn’t save energy as claimed (one fewer hour that requires lights on in the evening is canceled out by an extra hour of air conditioning use in many homes) — and medical experts have linked DST to an increased chance of heart attacks, headaches, and depression, likely because a disruption of the body’s natural rhythm causes stress. Not to mention, the plain old fatigue caused by the change in time.
That’s bad news for children who are already sleep deprived, according to a recent National Sleep Foundation study. But there’s hope. “While Daylight Saving Time does mean losing an hour of the day, it doesn’t necessarily mean losing an hour of sleep,” Lauren Hale, editor-in-chief of the National Sleep Foundation’s journal Sleep Health, tells Yahoo Parenting. She shares her tips for how to make the time change seamless for everyone in the family.
Move bedtime hour back in increments — starting early: “Try 15 minutes earlier one night, half an hour earlier the next,” says Hale. By the time Sunday comes, you may be able to put your child to bed an hour earlier than usual, and she may not notice the shift the next morning. Of course, if you don’t start ahead of time, you can always use this strategy after the time change, too. Eventually she’ll resume regular sleeping and waking hours.
Prepare the bedroom for sleep: “Use blackout shades or dim kids’ rooms more than usual, and don’t allow screen use within an hour of bedtime,” says Hale, adding that these tips are useful no matter what time of year, however, they’re more crucial around Daylight Savings.
In the morning, let there be light: “Open the curtains and allow the light to wake the kids,” says Hale. “It’s not just bedtime, but also wake-up time, that needs to be shifted.” She adds that she isn’t a fan of rousing sleeping children, but it may be necessary if little ones are on a schedule for school or daycare. In that case, allowing in sunlight first thing will alert their bodies to the shift and help them energize more quickly.
Don’t stress too much: “Yes, sleep is very important for young children, but there may be a few days where they can’t get as much as they’re used to, and that’s not the end of the world,” says Hale. “What’s most important are the long-term routines around bedtime and prioritizing sleep for kids. If those are in place, they’ll adjust sooner than you think.”