Are you ready to put your clocks forward an hour this weekend? That’s right: For most people in the United States (and Canada), it’s time to “roll forward” to daylight saving time on Sunday, March 12 at 2:00 a.m.
“For some reason, daylight saving time always surprises us,” said pediatrician Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a professor of adolescent medicine in the department of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Residents of Hawaii, most of Arizona, and the US Pacific and Caribbean territories do not follow the time change.
For people who are adjusting their clocks, the body is not going to like getting up an hour earlier, so it is best if you and your children begin to adjust by going to bed and waking up 15 to 20 minutes earlier each day for four or more days. before the switch, experts say.
“Planning for change may be key to lessening the impact of this change on your body’s circadian rhythms,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Start timing other daily routines that are also timing signals for your body, such as meals, exercise and medications, he added.
Preparing ahead of time is an especially good plan for teens, who are naturally wired to stay up and sleep in, and anyone else in the family who’s a night owl, said Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep. Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Didn’t you do that? Do not despair. “It’s never too late to start,” Dasgupta said. “Sleep is highly individualized, and each child will respond differently to the time change. Make sure you, as a parent, are also getting the rest you need, so you’re not too irritable with your child.”
MOVING BED AND WAKE UP TIMES
Younger children tend to adjust to time changes a little better than older children and adults, Breuner said, so they may need fewer days to adjust.
Zee, who is also a professor of neurology at Feinberg, agreed: “For most younger children, moving their bedtimes forward and waking up 10 to 15 minutes starting three days before the time change can help them adjust to the social clock time change on Monday morning,” he said.
If that didn’t happen, wait a bit grumpily until your child’s body adjusts, and be prepared to give him some slack, Dasgupta said.
“In the days after daylight saving time, I try to be more forgiving if my son throws an extra tantrum,” she said.
There are other ways that parents and caregivers can ease the transition, Breuner said. Lay out clothes and pack homework before bed to reduce morning stress. It’s also a good idea to pack a packed breakfast in case everyone is running late.
“That way, they’re snacking on the bus or in the car instead of trying to sit down for a full breakfast when everyone’s like, ‘Wow, it’s an hour later,'” he said.
And “don’t let the kids nap,” he added. “That just lengthens any adjustment to the time change.”
LET THERE BE LIGHT
For everyone in the family, the glow that comes in the morning is a good thing, experts say. When light enters your eyes, it’s a signal for the brain to turn off melatonin, the hormone the body produces to put you to sleep.
“Get bright morning light for 20 to 30 minutes shortly after waking up,” Zee said. “Increase your exposure to bright light at home, school, and work for the rest of the morning.”
This strategy is particularly important for teens and night owls, Zee said, and they should do this before and continue after DST begins to help with adjustment to the new time.
Breuner advocates making a “really hard rule” about keeping TVs, smartphones, laptops, gaming devices, or any other electronic devices out of the bedroom.
“Devices should be turned off and charging away from the bed, either in the kitchen or in another room besides the bedroom,” he said.
“We don’t secrete melatonin to help us sleep when we look at light,” Breuner said.
When it comes to teens, don’t be fooled by “I need my phone as an alarm in the morning and it helps me sleep at night,” she said. “Get up and grab your iPod and listen to some music and get yourself a regular alarm clock.”
If a child is struggling with depression or anxiety, not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences. “The likelihood of the child having worse behavioral health outcomes is higher,” she said.
LET THERE BE DARKNESS
The same rule about light applies to night, but in reverse, Zee said. She suggests avoiding bright light for at least three hours before bed: “This will allow your own melatonin to rise and promote sleep.”
Make sure your bedroom also promotes sleep, Zee added, by minimizing exposure to outside light with light-blocking blinds or shades. Keep bedroom lights dim and choose LED lights that have more reddish or brown tones.
Ban any light in the blue spectrum from the bedroom, such as those emitted by electronic devices such as televisions, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Blue light is the most stimulating type of light, telling the brain that it’s time to wake up.
Once you go to bed, keep the room cool and very dark; light can enter even with closed eyelids.
That’s what happened in a 2022 study by Zee that put healthy young adults in their 20s into a sleep lab. Sleeping for just one night with dim lighting, such as a muted TV, increased blood sugar levels and heart rates, even when eyes were closed during sleep.
Another study by Zee found that exposure to any amount of light during sleep was associated with diabetes, obesity, and hypertension in older men and women.