How To Survive Sunday’s Daylight Savings Time Change
Daylight Saving Time is this Sunday, and for many of us, the loss of one hour's sleep can wreak havoc on our family's schedule. Kids who have been sleeping well for the entire year can suddenly suddenly start waking up at odd hours of the night (or morning!) tearful and confused. Parents who really need that extra hour of sleep can feel sluggish and groggy all day at work. As a physician and pediatric sleep expert with a background in childhood sleep disorders, I’ve seen countless families suffer from the cumulative effects of having too much stress and too little sleep. But thankfully, there are some simple ways to avoid a week of sleep disruption in the aftermath of Daylight Saving Time. Below are some easy tips you can employ to keep the whole family feeling well-rested.
TIP #1: START PREPARING YOUR FAMILY FOR THE TIME CHANGE NOW: Go to bed early and often, You can prep for the lack of one hour's sleep by going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night for a week to several days leading up to the clock change. Going further, you can adjust your family’s household schedule gradually, by tapering naps, meals and bedtimes in 10 minute increments in the week leading up to the Daylight Saving Time "spring forward." Or you can get around Mother Nature by installing room-darkening or black-out shades in the child's nursery or bedroom. Make sure the entire family is well-rested leading up to the time change, so that everybody is up to dealing patiently with unexpected changes to sleep schedules.
TIP #2: PRACTICE GOOD "SLEEP HYGIENE”: Start the process of winding down an hour or two before the family goes to bed. Give children a relaxing bath. Dim their bedroom lights. Read a calming story. For adults, this means easing up on the alcohol and caffeine during the two hours prior to your bedtime. Be sure to limit your water intake in the evening to avoid bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.
TIP #3: AVOID DEVICES AND ELECTRONICS BEFORE BED: You can definitely read before bed to help you wind down, just try to make it a paperback. A 2014 study from the National Academy of Sciences found that the use of electronic devices such as e-readers and tablets right before bed can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep, delay the circadian clock and suppress the natural levels of melatonin present in the body and reduce alertness in the morning. All of this will decrease your chances of having a good night’s sleep during the Daylight Saving Time change period, when you need it the most.
TIP #4: IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY THE NEXT NIGHT: If you child suffers from nightmares or sleep terrors, first of all, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that sleep disorders like sleepwalking and night terrors affect nearly 25% of American children. The problem is, when one family member suffers from a sleep disorder, studies show the entire family tends to suffer from increased stress and cumulative lack of sleep. Luckily there are some new technologies designed to help re-adjust children’s sleep patterns so they can avoid the problem all together. If a child has a night terror during Daylight Saving week, the best thing to do is let the episode run its course and try to get the child to bed earlier the following night.
TIP #5: BE PATIENT AND PERSISTENT: If parents do not do anything to prepare for the time change to DST, it typically can take a few days to one week to naturally adjust to the one-hour time difference. Try to get some sun exposure first thing in the morning, which can help families synchronize to the new time change more easily.
Conclusion: All told, if you follow the above tips and try to start the process of preparing your family for the Daylight Saving Time change a few days ahead of time, you may find yourself feeling more well-rested than you had been for the entire preceding year. Who knew losing an hour’s sleep could be so good for your family?
Dr. Andy Rink is a physician and a sleep specialist with a specialty in childhood sleep disorders. Dr. Rink developed groundbreaking pediatric sleep research in collaboration with the Stanford University Sleep Center, the leading sleep research facility in the world. Dr. Rink has appeared in multiple news articles and has published in several medical journals on sleep disorders. He created the Lully Sleep Guardian, which solves the problem night terrors in children. He lives in San Francisco with his (well-rested) wife and daughter. For more information on Dr. Rink, visit www.lullysleep.com.