Adjusting to daylight saving time can be tough on kids. Dr. Adam Spanier answers some common questions about easing the transition during the time change.
1) What are some ways to prep kids for daylight saving time?
Start to prepare in advance. First, encourage good bedtime routines and a good night’s sleep regularly. Second, ensure good sleep “hygiene.” Cut off electronics well before bed – the lights and stimulation can throw off our sleep cycle. Keep the lights low in the evening. Keep activities quieter. Third, you can gradually adjust bedtime ahead of the change – 10 minutes to 15 minutes a day. Fourth, be patient after the change, your child might be grumpier the next few days.
2) Should you change bed time rituals?
Bedtime rituals are important in certain age groups, so it would be best to keep them stable. However, they can move a little earlier prior to the daylight savings day to help prepare for the change.
3) Should you change the morning/breakfast routine?
Similar to bedtime, mealtime rituals are important in certain age groups, so it would be best to keep them stable. However, they can move a little earlier prior to the daylight savings day to help prepare for the change.
4) Do kids need more vitamins or other nutrients to combat the lack of sleep?
No. In general, a well-balanced diet provides all the vitamins and nutrients needed. There are no vitamins and nutrients that might make up for a good night’s sleep. It is also important to avoid caffeine, as using it can lead to negative health effects in children.
5) If all else fails, should you try an over-the-counter melatonin for kids?
Some people like melatonin because it is the same hormone that our bodies make in preparation for our sleep cycle. It is probably better to use your body’s hormones rather than take supplemental ones. Turning down the lights can help ramp up melatonin levels. If someone wants to use melatonin, it is best to ask the doctor for advice on dosing first.
6) Any special instructions for infants and newborns?
Infants and newborns adapt a little earlier because their schedules tend to be a little more flexible and more subject to change.
7) Is there a psychological aspect of losing an hour of sleep that the parents should be aware of?
The loss of an hour of sleep anytime can cause behavior changes in children. We sometimes see inattention, restlessness, and other symptoms similar to those seen in ADHD when children are not getting enough sleep. Too little sleep can also lead to depression. It can also affect appetite.
Adam Spanier, MD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Division Head, General Pediatrics, University of Maryland Children’s Hospital
The Division of General Pediatrics at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital offers continuing comprehensive care to children from infancy through 18 years of age.
To make an appointment, call 410-225-8780