According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, teens lose more than a half hour of sleep when we spring forward into Daylight Savings Time the second Sunday of March. But their bodies can more easily handle the bonus hour of the fall Daylight Savings Time.
“When you fall back to standard time, the extra hour is like pressing the snooze button on the clock,” said Dr. Jyoti Krishna, director of sleep medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Since the typical teen is already sleep deprived due to competition from media, gaming, caffeine and cellphones, they welcome the extra hour to help catch up. This effect fades in 1-2 days as the body adjusts to the new time.”
Keeping your body in rhythm
Timekeeping in humans is driven by sunlight and our own internally and naturally produced melatonin, which helps reset our clocks every day.
“We all have internal clocks and 24-hour sleep and wake rhythms called circadian rhythms,” Dr. Krishna said. “Animals, plants and humans all have them. Most of us, with the exception of nocturnal animals like owls and bats, sleep at night and work during the day.”
Allowing natural light to pour into your bedroom in the morning is a good way to reset your internal clock. It also helps turn off your body’s melatonin production for the waking day.
“If you were blind or stayed in a dark room all the time, your internal clock starts scooting out of the 24-hour cycle, at a rate of about 20 minutes each day,” said Dr. Krishna. “Just like an atomic clock gets an updated signal from Boulder, Colo., each day to help it stay on time, we too need to reset our internal circadian clocks each day, and the reset button for us is the sun.”
But as much as sunlight is important for starting our day so is dimming our home lights closer to bedtime.
“This sends our brains the signal that the day is done and it is time to start producing the night hormone melatonin once again,” Dr. Krishna said.
To ensure your child gets proper rest, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 8-10 hours a night for teens ages 14-17, 9-11 hours for children 6-13 years old, 10-13 hours for preschoolers, and 11-14 hours for toddlers.
“The pattern I see for teens is that they run too short on sleep during the week and try to catch up on their sleep on weekends,” Dr. Krishna said. “But it isn’t just teens who don’t get enough sleep. Parents are often surprised at how much sleep younger kids really need to function at their best.”