Don’t let time change disrupt kids’ sleep schedules

  • By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer
  • Monday, October 27, 2008 3:32pm
  • Life

It’s almost time to set your clocks back one hour.

This weekend marks the end of daylight saving time, which officially concludes at 2 a.m. Sunday.

While this is the good daylight saving time change — we get back that hour we lost in the spring — the small change can cause sleep-schedule hiccups for families with children.

“If kids are on a strict schedule, it can be difficult for them to adjust to that hour, especially young kids, toddlers,” said Dr. Ron Green, medical director of the North Puget Sound Center for Sleep Disorders in Everett. “They would actually be getting up an hour earlier.”

Parents who want a seamless transition to standard time, however, can take charge of the situation.

Just a few days before the time change, Green suggested, allow your child to stay up 15 or 30 minutes later. Then get them up 15 or 30 minutes later as well.

“That way you can ease them into it,” he said. “Then, when you’re back on standard time, you’ve already switched.”

Because dark triggers sleep and light encourages awakening, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

Be sure bedrooms stay dark in the morning. If you don’t have light-blocking or heavily lined shades, you might invest in them now. They’ll come in handy next summer during those long bright days when you put the kids to bed well before sundown.

If your child has to be dragged out of bed in the morning, help the kid — and yourself — rise and shine by turning lights on throughout the house. For a blast of light therapy with your oatmeal, place a bright lamp on the breakfast table.

“It’s reinforcing,” Green said. “When you are exposed to early-morning light, it’s a signal to your brain that it’s time to wake up.”

Most children, especially teens, are somewhat sleep deprived. They build up “sleep debt” throughout the week.

“They try to pay that back on the weekends by sleeping later,” Green said.

That, in turn, makes it difficult to drift off on Sunday nights and even harder to get up Monday morning.

“The best way to set your internal clock is to get up at the same time every single morning and get yourself to bright light upon awakening,” Green said.

How will you know if you and your kids are well rested?

“The definition of getting enough sleep is being able to fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time when you get to bed and waking up naturally without an alarm,” Green said. “That’s what enough sleep is.”

Sarah Jackson 425-339-3037

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