Daylight saving time (DST) is challenging enough for adults. Changing the clocks can mean losing an hour of sleep, accidentally showing up late to an important meeting, or spending 15 frustrating minutes trying to remember how to change the time on your car dashboard. For some children, though, daylight saving time can mean something more far-reaching: a disruption to their regular sleep pattern.
Every parent is familiar with trying to get a kid to fall asleep an hour earlier than the day before— or keeping an overtired youngster up an hour later than what feels normal. “Fortunately, it’s a largely avoidable problem,” says Lynne Karlson, MD, Chief of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Karlson recommends tweaking the routine starting a week ahead of daylight saving time—adjusting bedtime by 15 minutes every other night. By the time the clocks change, kids will be fully acclimated to the new schedule.
There is always the chance, however, that a child’s sleep problems aren’t related to the time change. “If slightly older children—not infants—are having significant problems falling asleep, your pediatrician can help,” Dr. Karlson says. Parents should check with their children’s pediatrician to make sure that other possible causes for sleep problems don’t go undiagnosed or untreated.