“Spring forward” sleep tips for kids

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Right about the time when you get your toddler, young child or teen on a good sleep schedule, daylight saving time comes around to destroy all your hard work.

While it’s tough enough for adults to adjust to a new schedule, experts say losing an hour of sleep can be especially difficult on children. In fact, it may take more than a few days for a child to get used to a time change. If kids are not sleeping well, parents probably aren’t either.

Brian Kang, MD, medical director of the Children’s Sleep Disorder Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, says there are simple things parents can do to help their kids adjust.

Dell Children’s and Seton are part of part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Before switching clocks forward an hour, Dr. Kang recommends the following tips for parents:

  • Start the process as soon as possible. Move your child’s bedtime up earlier than usual. Even 15-20 minutes earlier than usual can help.
  • Stick to a bedtime routine. Follow a daily schedule of pre-bedtime activities and stick to it.
  • Shutdown screens and put away phones, tablets and electronics. According to Kang, studies show screens emit a wavelength that makes it hard for your brain to wind down. Kang recommends putting down electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
  • In the morning, try turning on the lights and opening up blinds to let in as much natural light as possible. This signals to the child’s body that it’s time to start the day.

Signs that signal “sleepiness”

It may be easier to spot signs of fatigue in adults than children, Kang said. Many children don’t show typical symptoms of sleepiness. One example is teenagers who can exhibit poor decision making when they’re tired.

Signs of sleepiness in young children include:

  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention
  • Behavioral issues

“If you’re seeing a lot of energy at bedtime that’s actually a marker of sleepiness and it’s important to try to corral that by giving the child a quieter environment,” Kang said.