4 ways to help your child 'fall back'

By Timothy A. Nelson
Amita Health
Posted10/20/2019 7:00 AM

Daylight Saving Time for 2019 will come to an end in a little more than a week. Though this means only falling back one hour, any parent can tell you what that hour means to the mood and health of their child.

Following these seasonal time changes, most of us feel it's a bit more difficult to drag ourselves out of bed. This can be even more difficult for children, who need more sleep and don't as easily put up with changes to their sleep schedule as adults.


"There's been lots of research on the effects of daylight saving time changes to our health. The time change can really throw off a child's normal sleep routine," said Dr. Mohammed Homsi, neurologist with special qualification in child neurology with Amita Health. "Even that hour's change throws off a child's body clock -- the circadian rhythm -- and they have to adjust."

Homsi says there are several steps you can take to help your child adjust to the end of Daylight Saving Time.

1. Gradually change bedtime

In the week prior to falling back, adjust your child's bedtime and naptimes by a few minutes a day. For example, if your child normally goes to bed at 8 p.m., start pushing that bedtime by 10 to 15 minutes later every few days before the time change. By the time you have to fall back from 9 to 8 p.m., your child will already be going to bed at that time.

2. Rise and shine later, too

If you wake your child in the morning, push that time back gradually, as well, allowing for a full night's sleep. Again, by the time of the change, your child will be waking right on time. Be certain to keep the bedroom dark to allow your child to sleep a little later. But be prepared for your child to wake a little early, too.

3. It isn't just about sleep

Changes to time, whether falling back or springing forward, affect more than just our sleep. Much like the plan to gradually adjust your child's sleep time in the week leading up to the end of Daylight Saving Time, do the same with your other scheduled activities, such as mealtimes and playtimes. This will also help your child adjust to their body's natural rhythm with the change in time, helping to keep moods calm and light.

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4. Most of all, be patient

Children can be just as confused by sudden changes to their schedules and the accompanying sleep deprivation as adults, but they're not equipped to communicate that frustration. Meltdowns may happen. Be ready to sooth their moods and help them adjust to the change. And this is something that happens twice a year, so just try to be ready for it.

"Everyone's body adjusts and reacts differently to the transition in time," Dr. Homsi said. "With preparation, many parents will notice little difference a day or two after the end of Daylight Saving Time. But some children may take more time to adapt to the time change."

And, he says, parents should be prepared to take care of themselves, as well. Proper preparation for the whole family will help ease the transition to the shorter days of winter ahead.

• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health. Visit them at www.AMITAhealth.org.

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