The clocks on most smartphones automatically adjust to Daylight Saving Time (DST), but children’s internal clocks aren't always as quick to embrace the change.
When the times of the day that usually correspond to certain amounts of light are altered, so are the signals that tell a child’s body when it’s time to start and end the day. As a result, it can take children up to 10 days to fully reset their internal clock to Daylight Saving Time, according to the Pediatric Sleep Council.
In a new survey from the Better Sleep Council (BSC), 94% of parents said it takes two or more days to get their kids back into their regular sleep pattern. For 31% of parents, the adjustment takes six days or more.
So it’s no surprise, then, that more than one-quarter (28%) of all parents said they do not like putting their clock ahead one hour for DST. But parents can shorten the time it takes for their little one to adjust to the time change by preparing early.
Pediatric sleep expert Dr. Jodi Mindell says parents can avoid a bedtime meltdown on March 12 and a morning meltdown on March 13 by shifting bedtimes earlier by a few minutes every day leading up to the time change.
“If possible, making slower changes can be beneficial,” she says. “Start on Thursday night, shifting bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every day. Or, start on Saturday night shifting 30 minutes earlier.”
The BSC echoes this advice, and adds that tacking on an extra step or two to your child’s bedtime routine can also be helpful. Reading a book together or having them take a warm bath or shower can help them relax before bed.
Operate on the new time
Additionally, parents should avoid letting kids eat heavy meals too close to bedtime since heavy meals can interfere with sleep quality. And once DST goes into effect, it’s crucial to operate on the adjusted time even if it means waking children up earlier than usual.
Mindell also offered a way for parents to use light to their advantage with the onset of Daylight Saving Time:
“Because children’s internal clocks are affected by light and dark, parents should be sure to turn on the lights and open the blinds to let in as much natural light as possible in the morning,” she said, “This signals to the child’s body that it’s time to start the day.”