Kids Sleep and Daylight Saving Time

Kids Sleep Basics

A child asleep in the car on the way to soccer practice.
Does your sleep deprived child fall asleep in the car?. Photo by Allen Donikowski/Getty Images

During Daylight saving time, we spring forward and fall back an hour.

In 2016, Daylight saving time began on March 13 and ends on November 6.

Start of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving times begins in the Spring, when people in most parts of the United States move their clocks forward an hour, moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. But the United States isn't the only country that moves their clocks.

Seventy other countries observe daylight saving, although they begin and end at different times.

Most parents welcome the start of daylight saving time, so that their children can spend more time playing outside in the evening.

The main downside to this 'spring forward' is that it can interfere with your children's sleep schedules. Although adults can usually quickly adapt to a new wake up and sleep time, especially if they are already a little sleep deprived, it can be more difficult for younger children.

After moving the clocks ahead an hour, children who were used to going to bed when it was dark at 7 or 8 pm, will now essentially be going to bed at 6 or 7 pm, while it may still be light outside.

End of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving times ends in late Fall, when people in most parts of the United States move their clocks backward an hour

The end of daylight saving time seems less useful to many people.

By moving the clocks back an hour, now all of a sudden, it is getting dark much earlier.

After moving the clocks back an hour, children who were used to going to bed when it was dark at 8 pm and waking up at 7am, will now be wanting (or ready) to go to bed at 7 pm, and while that may be okay, they also will be ready to wake up at 6am.

Younger children's sleep schedules are more tied to their internal clocks and when they feel tired or are used to going to sleep, and not to what time a clock says it is.

Get Your Kids Ready for Daylight Saving Time

The usual recommendation to get ready for the start of Daylight saving time is to gradually get your child used to his new bedtime. So, even before daylight saving time begins, instead of an 8pm bedtime, you might put your child to bed 5-15 minutes earlier every few days. This way, by the time you move your clock forward an hour, your child is already used to going to bed at the 'earlier' time.

It can also help to wake your child up at the same time each day. So instead of letting your child sleep in after moving the clocks forward, wake him up at the same time he usually wakes up (even if it is really an hour earlier).

Also keep nap times regular and at the same adjusted time that he usually takes them.

Many parents make the mistake of letting their children sleep in the day after daylight saving time begins.

And it is tempting to do this so your child doesn't become sleep deprived. But then your child will likely not be able to go to bed on time the next night and it will just take longer to get back on schedule.

If you didn't make a gradual adjustment to your child's bedtime, you might try to wake him up an hour earlier on the day before daylight saving time begins. Then he will likely be more sleepy that night, and you can put him to sleep an hour earlier. That way he won't actually lose an hours sleep the morning of daylight saving time as you wake him up at his usual wake up time.

For older children and adults who do end up losing sleep and feeling sleep deprived, a short nap in the early afternoon on the day after daylight saving time begins might be helpful.

If you have an infant that is an early riser, waking up at 5am despite your best intentions, a shift forward can actually be helpful.

For most other children, as they are already not getting enough sleep, making an easy adjustment through the start of daylight saving time is important.

And you can do a similar gradual adjustment at the end of Daylight saving time. Gradually get your child used to his new bedtime, so that even before Daylight saving time ends, instead of an 8pm bedtime, you might put your child to bed 5-15 minutes later every few days. This way, by the time you move your clock back an hour, your child is already used to going to bed at the 'earlier' time.

Also keep in mind that the start and end of daylight saving time are good chances to get caught up on safety measures around the house, such as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and cleaning out your medicine cabinets.

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