How to Navigate Daylight Saving Time as a Family

Daylight saving time (DST) – when clocks jump forward one hour in most states – is just around the corner, and it can be a tricky time for kids as they need to adjust. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health pediatric pulmonologists and sleep specialists Hina Emanuel, MD, and Caroline Okorie, MD, provide tips for families.

Though the time change is small, it makes a big impact on children as the mornings get darker, and the evenings stay light longer.

“Many parents note that the time change throws off their kid’s sleep-wake schedule, which affects the whole day,” notes Dr. Okorie. “It’s hard for kids to fall asleep at bedtime. Their circadian rhythms get used to a regular sleep-wake time, so when the clock suddenly springs forward, it feels like 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and kids struggle to feel sleepy at the ‘right’ time.”

What can parents do to help ease the transition?

“Children thrive on predictable routines. In the week leading up to DST, gradually adjust mealtimes by 15-minute increments each day. For younger kids, this can be applied to nap times as well,” Dr. Emanuel recommends.

She also notes it’s important to avoid the temptation to let children sleep in on the day of the DST shift and on weekends. “This can further confuse their internal clocks. Consistency is key.”

Parents can also try to make the room darker during bedtime with blackout curtains or blinds. Dr. Emanuel suggests dimming lights and powering down electronics at least one hour before bedtime. You can also create a calming bedtime routine with soothing activities such as reading or taking a bath.

During the day, families can maximize morning light exposure through activities, such as setting up a breakfast picnic on the porch on sunny morning, or walking to school or the park. If the weather isn’t great, open the curtain in kids’ bedrooms as soon as they wake up to allow natural light to flood the room to help the entire family adjust their internal clocks.

“If your child’s sleep programs persist for several weeks after the time shift, consider reaching out to a pediatric sleep specialist,” Dr. Okorie suggests.

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