Spring Forward: It’s Time to Reset Your Kid’s Inner Clock

Mohandas Gandhi once said, “Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep.”  But for many parents, frustration and even anger can quickly set in around bedtime with the start of daylight saving time. The amount of sleep lost from moving the clock forward just one hour can quickly turn to two and three hours less sleep if your children aren’t properly prepared for the change.

Dr. Cindy Jon is a sleep medicine specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center and Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and assistant professor, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. She says everyone is unique as to how their body responds to the time change. Dr. Jon adds that what’s important is for parents to realize their child most likely won’t simply automatically adjust to the time change.

“I recommend trying to ease into the time change over the course of a few days leading up to daylight saving time,” says Dr. Jon. “Maybe set the clock forward 15 minutes Wednesday night and then another 15 minutes Thursday night so that you can begin your routine early.”

Dr. Jon believes it’s important to have a set sleep time and wake time throughout the week and even on the weekends year-round. “Your body does well with rhythm and stability when it comes to sleep,” says Dr. Jon. “Think of it like jetlag and how difficult the first day or two may be on your body in a new time zone. If you stay up later on the weekends or sleep in more on the weekends you’re essentially doing the same thing to your body every week.”

Shedding some light on sleep and wake time

The switch to daylight saving time not only means losing an hour of sleep by moving the clock forward, it also means an extension of daylight for an extra hour. Dr. Jon says that light is a trigger to stay awake and can make sleep difficult. “Try to make the room as dark as possible so as to minimize the amount of light in the room at night,” says Dr. Jon. “When your child wakes up in the morning you should open the shades and let the daylight come into the room. This additional light will assist them in waking up.”

Early to bed may not mean early to rise

Some parents may try to adjust their child to the time change simply by extending bed time by an hour, but that may not be the best idea. Dr. Jon says some children are simply predisposed to wake up early or stay up late. “There are morning larks and there are night owls. What’s most important is that your child is receiving the appropriate amount of sleep consistently,” says Dr. Jon.

Don’t fall asleep at the switch

Be sure to remember to set your clock forward one hour before you go to sleep Saturday night, March 11. Daylight saving time officially begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 12.

If your sleep trouble goes beyond adjusting to a time change, Memorial Hermann is able to assist you at one of our 11 Houston area-locations. For more information about our Sleep Centers, visit our website.

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Tashika Varma