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How will turning the clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time affect your family's sleep?

March 10, 2016
Daylight Savings Time logo

Mention the words “spring ahead” or “fall behind” and most adults will tell you it means they are either going to lose or gain an hour’s sleep.

But, whether gaining or losing an hour’s sleep this weekend as Americans turn their clocks ahead on Sunday, March 13 at 2 am when Daylight Saving Time begins, adjusting to the time change shouldn’t be a problem for most adults. However, it may be a different story for some children, wreaking havoc on their sleep patterns.

“While the time change shouldn’t be a concern for parents with newborns and younger babies, whose sleep patterns haven’t yet been established, older babies and children can be affected by the time change,” said Dr. Anthony Jackson, a board certified pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist at Baystate Children's Hospital.

“When asked by parents how to deal with the time change for their children, our suggestion for kids’ bedtimes echoes what sleep specialists often tell adults – begin going to bed 15-20 minutes earlier a few days prior to the actual time change,” he added.

Another recommendation – blackout blinds or room-darkening curtains to keep the light out in the evening and when the sun rises in the morning.

“Our sleep is aided by the release of melatonin in our bodies. Light suppresses this essential hormone, which can make it more difficult for a child to fall asleep,” said Dr. Jackson.

When not worrying about springing ahead or falling behind, Dr. Jackson offers 6 tips to help your child get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Set a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule for your child, and stick to it.
  2. Make your child’s bedroom a quiet, dark, cool environment for sleeping.
  3. Establish a relaxed bedtime routine. A warm bath before bed, singing or listening to soft music, warm milk or story time, all help a child relax and settle down.
  4. Avoid giving your child sugary snacks or drinks at least six hours before bedtime.
  5. Avoid scary stories or television shows and movies before bed. Even the evening news may be troubling to children before bed.
  6. Make sure your child gets regular exercise. Avoid vigorous activities right before bed.

For kids who continue to struggle, Dr. Jackson recommends talking to your pediatrician to make sure there is not an underlying issue causing the problem.

More than half of all Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep needs depend on many factors, including age. For most adults, seven to nine hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and optimum performance. It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 10-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers, on average, require about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

And, a little trivia about daylight saving time – many people incorrectly refer to the time change as “savings” time in the plural. Also, some believe that it was one of our forefathers, Benjamin Franklin, who originated the idea of moving clocks forward. It was actually Englishman William Willett who first suggested the concept to the British Parliament. And, as it ended up, Germany was the first country to enact daylight saving time.

Baystate Medical Center'sNeurodiagnostics and Sleep Center provides the latest high-technology testing and diagnosis for all types of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleepwalking.

For more information about the Baystate Regional Sleep Program at Baystate Medical Center call 413-794-5600, Baystate Franklin Medical Center call 413-773-2727, and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, call 413-967-2527.