Many adults think of Sunday’s time change as a chance to sleep in or get an extra hour of chores done on Sunday, but the new sleep schedule can be a nuisance that lasts for several days for parents of young children.
The internal clock in babies, toddlers and small children doesn’t reset as easily as it does for older children and adults.
According to Dr. Terri Linnon, who is a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Boardman, it takes as long as 5 days to get children back on schedule after a sleep routine been altered.
As many families know, the quality and quantity of children’s sleep affects the well-being of everyone in the household.
To help create a cranky-free transition and halt their creative avoidance tactics, Dr. Linnon suggests making small changes to the bedtime and morning routines in 15 minute increments each day starting a few days prior, such as Friday.
“It’s important to give your kids a few days to adjust to the new sleep schedule,” she said. “Ideally, do it over the weekend or, if your work and school schedules allow, after the time change works too.”
Bedtime routines are also helpful to keep families and children calm, secure and at ease with life’s variables. Dr. Linnon offers these tips:
- Establish a bedtime that allows the child to get the appropriate amount of sleep for his age and needs, then alerting him both at 30 minutes and again at 10 minutes beforehand that bedtime is approaching.
- Prepare the body to settle down by reading, taking a bath or shower, having a light snack or listening to soothing music.
- Avoid caffeine after dinner, including chocolate and chocolate milk.
- Prohibit activities too close to bedtime that could excite or upset kids, such as watching TV or playing video and computer games.
- Create a soothing bedroom environment by drowning out distracting sounds with a fan or white noise machine.
- Make sure the room is dark, especially if it’s still light outside.
Kids who are not well rested will have obvious signs of sleepiness, as well as:
- Have trouble focusing or paying attention
- Be overexcited or jumpy
- Be irritable or fussy
- Have difficulty controlling impulses or emotions
Kids need much more sleep than the typical 8 hours recommended for adults. School age kids require 12-13 hours each night, while those in middle school need about 10-11 hours. Teens, especially younger teens, should get nine hours.
More tips and resources are available on our website.
If you think your child or teen might be suffering from a severe sleep disruption, use this checklist to help determine if he should have a sleep disorder evaluation at our Sleep Center.