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Sleep Tips to Help Children with the Time Change

March 11, 2023

A young child lies in bed with his eyes closed.  He is yawning.

Ashish R. Shah, MD, specializes in pediatric sleep medicine and pediatric pulmonology at Atlantic Health System. He diagnoses and treats various lung disorders, including asthma. He also evaluates children who have various sleep difficulties, including difficulty with falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleep apnea. Whatever the condition, his goal is to help ensure children have a more restful sleep.

One thing that can negatively impact sleep for both kids and adults is daylight saving time. We asked Dr. Shah for some tips for parents to help kids adjust.

How can I help my child or teen adjust to daylight saving time?

The most practical piece of advice I can give is to ease into the transition. A few days before the time change, have kids wake up 10-15 minutes earlier each day to minimize the impact. By the time daylight saving time arrives, they’ll already be used to getting up earlier and the hour lost might not be such a shock to their system. 

Why do teenagers have a harder time adjusting to daylight saving time?

It’s estimated that people get 20-30 minutes less sleep during the week following the time change. It can be even harder for teenagers to adjust because of their circadian rhythms. They have a biological tendency to stay up later.

But this preference isn’t always compatible with modern schedules. Homework, social activities and social media can also mean less sleep for teens. And daylight saving time, in the Spring, means it’s a little brighter in the evening, so they’ll want to go to bed even later. But they still have to go to school and the lack of sleep might mean their academic performance suffers.

Teenagers’ habits might be harder to influence, as they’re more independent and generally less receptive to unsolicited advice. My advice is to return to the basics of sleep hygiene, or healthy sleep habits, to help them navigate the coming days.

How can I help my child or teen get more rest in general?

No matter the time of year, you can create a healthy home environment to set kids up for success. For example, stick to a consistent time for dinner and bedtime. Both children and teens should limit intense activity a few hours before bedtime. Encourage them to power down devices an hour before bedtime and start mentally preparing for bed. Older children and teens should also avoid napping, as it can disrupt nighttime sleep.