Like it or not, Daylight Savings Time is set to end on Nov. 7, 2021, which means you’ll set the clocks back an hour and gain one more precious hour of sleep.
While it doesn’t seem like too much (and an extra hour of sleep might feel like a godsend to exhausted parents), a disruption to your child’s sleep schedule means a disruption to their entire routine.
So, how can you help prepare your kids for the fall time change and ensure a smoother transition? We spoke with Agnes Ward, a psychologist and Chief Clinical Officer with Macomb County Community Mental Health, to find out.
How the change affects kids
Admittedly, gaining an hour of sleep might not be as bad as losing an hour in the springtime, but even a slight change to a child’s sleep schedule can result in behavioral issues.
“Kids can experience being tired at school, so it can affect their schooling and one of the bigger things that can happen when kids are not getting enough sleep or when their sleep is disrupted, is an interruption in their cognitive functioning,” Ward explains.
This can manifest as irritability, emotional outbursts or attention issues in younger kids. In older kids, it might look like moodiness, new or increased aggression and oppositional behaviors.
“And those are just some things we want to be mindful of that sleep can have an effect on,” Ward adds.
Preparing kids for the time change
To avoid these behaviors, parents can start helping their kids get used to their new sleeping schedule as early as a week or two before the time change actually happens, Ward explains.
“Start by adjusting their bedtime by 15 or 20 minutes every day,” she says. “Have them go to bed later in increments so that when the actual time change hits, they’re already set on the appropriate clock.”
If you aren’t able to start adjusting their bedtime in advance, that’s OK, too. You can start adjusting your child’s bedtime now in small increments and eventually, they’ll adjust on their own — just maybe not as smoothly.
“It’s really about encouraging that smoother transition. If you plan ahead it will be smoother. If you don’t plan ahead, there may be a little bit of turbulence, but they’ll still adjust,” Wards adds.
Parents should also encourage a consistent bedtime routine and prohibit use of any electronics, which can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime, before bed. Ward also suggests parents open the blinds first thing in the morning — because the sunlight lets the brain know that it’s time to get up — and that they consider adjusting their own bedtime routines, too.
“It’s not only the child that’s adjusting to now functioning with new hours in their daily life. The parent also has to adjust their own sleep cycle and their own schedule,” she says. “Planning ahead just makes for a smooth transition for everybody.”
Find more information about Macomb County through the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development at Make Macomb Your Home.