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Sleeping & Soothing

Daylight Saving Time: How to Help Kids Adjust

The time change can mess with your nightly routine. Here's how to prepare

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The clocks go back an hour at 2am on November 6 as daylight saving time comes to an end. This means you get a whole extra hour to get everything done, but it can also mean that everyone's sleep schedule gets off track. Here's how to prepare.

How easy it is depends on your kid. Just like it's tougher for some adults, moving the clocks back can affect certain kids more than others, explains Rachel Moon, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) publication Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know. Some babies and toddlers are more flexible by nature, while others stick to very strict schedules. "It may take a little longer for those with a more rigid routine to adjust to the new time," she says.

Give it a week. That's how long it can take to adjust to a one-hour change, so plan ahead by shifting your child's bed and wake-up time by 10 minutes a day for 6 days, recommends Jennifer Shu, MD, editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) publication Baby & Child Health and a pediatrician in Atlanta. "By the time the clocks have changed, she'll already be right in 'the zone'," she adds.

Keep weekends consistent. Dinners out, birthday parties, and other events can make it hard to stick to the sleep routine on Fridays and Saturdays, but it'll be easier to get back on track if you do.

Make it dark The clock change is particularly challenging in the fall since the earlier hour means kids are going to bed when it's still light out. And a darkened room is a signal to your child's body that it's time to hit the hay. Expose your child to natural light during the day to help set her internal clock and keep the house dimmer and quieter about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, says Dr. Shu. And use window shades or blinds in the bedroom to block out the light. 

Power down electronics Limiting screen use prior to bedtime can actually help children sleep better. "All kids really need a device curfew," says Corinn Cross, MD, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Turn off devices an hour before bed and if they're on leading up to the curfew, reduce the brightness of the screens, she says. And don't leave electronics charging in your child's bedroom. Instead, remove them to another spot so that they don't wake him up or tempt an older kid who's up during the night to turn them back on.