Many of us are used to daylight saving time, but have you ever thought how falling back and springing forward affects children? Although DST is a signal for the beginning of spring, more and more parents report having bedtime battles with children who are kicked out of their sleep routine. Due to a disrupted sleep schedule, kids are sleep deprived while parents are frustrated.
Is DST Bad for Children?
A study about measuring daytime sleepiness in adolescents before and after transitioning to DST, conducted by German researchers ten years ago, showed that kids have more troubles adjusting to the new time and feel very sleepy the day after the clock was set forward. The concerning fact is that the effect of DST doesn’t last only a day or two but up to two weeks.
This means that during these two weeks, children’s cognitive performance is most likely impaired. Due to reduced cognitive performance, kids may have troubles paying attention on class or doing school tests. They may also have difficulties learning new things in the classroom.
Since lack of sleep also leads to mood changes, your kid may feel irritable, nervous or even depressed. Due to this, making everyday decisions, getting along with your friends and family, and handling emotionally difficult events and stress may be harder.
One of the reported goals of springing forward is to increase activity during daylight hours. However, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, this one-hour time change has little to no impact on kids’ activity. The research shows that children spend the same amount of time playing before the time change.
If we consider the entire population, we can conclude that the intent of people who invented DST was good, but it doesn’t have an overall positive effect.
Prepare Your Kids for Springing Forward
No matter whether you believe falling back and springing forward are a good or a bad thing, you should help your children transition to DST easier. Keep in mind that kids’ circadian rhythm is much more sensitive than adults’ and that they may need an entire week to adapt to the new time.
After the time change goes into effect, the goal is to get your child back into his regular sleep pattern. In order to do this, a week before the time change, put your children to bed 15 minutes earlier every night. It will help him adjust to the time change gradually.
It is essential to stick to your child’s bed routine or add new elements (a step or two) if you notice your kid is struggling to sleep. All actions should help your kid relax and unwind. Avoid feeding your children large and heavy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime. Eating close to bedtime or before going to bed may disrupt their sleep. Since daylight saving is a situation you and your kids cannot avoid, your responsibility as a parent is to ensure the impacts of this sudden change aren’t harmful.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic