How to Help Kids Adjust to Daylight Savings Time

Nanci Yuan, MD, medical director of the Sleep Center at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, answered questions and provided tips about the basics of pediatric sleep schedules.


What advice do you give parents needing to adjust their child’s sleep schedule for seasonal changes?


The best approach is to be proactive. Make sure the child is getting good, quality sleep before their sleep schedule needs adjusting. If you're already not refreshed and then you have to wake up an hour earlier or later, you're going to become even more sleep-deprived.


For infants under six months, most sleep on their own schedule, so changes do not affect them. But for older infants, toddlers and young children with set nap and nighttime schedules, you can ease them into time changes by slowly moving up or back their regular timed sleep, in 15 to 30 minute increments. So, if their nap usually happens at noon and nocturnal sleep at 8 p.m., then move them to 11:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m., respectively, and keep adjusting gradually prior to the time change.


What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep?


Sleep deprivation is known to cause emotional and cognitive issues, and these can affect the child and the caregivers. With older children, the impact often plays out in school: poor concentrate, disciplinary problems, drowsy driving among teens – even poor diet. Studies have shown that as few as 8 percent of high school students get enough sleep on weeknights, and many frequently have irregular sleep patterns, too.


Any advice about digital devices and pediatric sleep?


Parents should ensure that a child does not have exposure to an electronic device at least one hour, at minimum, before sleep time. In addition to stimulating the brain when it should be resting, electronic devices emit light that can affect the circadian clock and suppress the secretion of melatonin, a hormone made by the body, which helps promote sleep.


What is normal sleep for a baby?


The range for normal sleep depends on the age of the child, and is divided between nighttime sleep and naps. This could be anywhere from 11-18 hours over a 24-hour period, generally speaking. It's a big range when you’re that young.


What should a parent do if there are concerns about a child’s sleep?


Speak to a pediatrician. If problems persist or additional information is needed, parents should then seek help from a pediatric sleep specialist.



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