WHAT IS DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is an international practice born to make to most of natural light hours during spring and summer months. It is an artifice: in spring clocks are set ahead by an hour, and then turned back in the fall, thus restoring solar time. Joining the DST is a prerogative of each State, but in Europe is a common choice to many countries: as a matter of fact, by lowering the usage of artificial light, it is possible to achieve important reductions in energy consumption, with clear advantages for everyone.
DST doesn’t just impact energy consumption or bills: there are also important implications for our psychophysical balance Sixty minutes may seem like a minor, trivial difference, but it is not like that: switching to DST and vice versa constitutes quite a perturbation for our biorhythm. And if adults may be able to adjust to the time change with relative ease, it can be more challenging for children as their already delicate and precarious sleep-wake cycle can be messed up.
In this article we explore the potential implications of DST on children’s sleep routine, at the aim of providing useful tips and suggestions on how we can help our kids adapt to the new time schedule without too much trouble.
The impact of Daylight Saving Time on children’s sleep
(Photo credits: Drobotdean from Freepik)
Daylight Saving Time can have a significant impact on children’s sleep. The one-hour shift can disrupt their internal body clock, also known as the “circadian rhythm”, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This can result in difficulty falling asleep, night or early awakenings, and a feeling of tiredness and crankiness during the day.
Obviously, children with a constant, regular sleep routine are particularly affected by the time change. A sudden shift in the clock can generate confusion and frustration, potentially affecting their overall health and well-being.
In Italy and in many EU countries at the end of March clocks will change again to switch to the summer schedule. What can we do as parents to help children cope with this change without backlash? Here are some tips on how you can help yourself and your baby make this transition smoother.
Useful tips to help children adjust to the new time
- Gradually adjust bedtime
One of the most effective ways to help children adjust to the time change is to gradually shift their bedtime. A few days before the time change, you can start shifting their activities and bedtime routine by about 15-20 minutes each day, so to get them used to the new schedule little by little. This may seem a small step but can be of great help for your child.
- Maintain a consistent routine
Keeping bedtime routine consistent is crucial for children, especially during times of change. For sure, the DST switch is not the ideal time to add other changes to your child’s sleep routine. This consistency will help them feel secure and fall asleep faster. In this sense, evening rituals are key, because they represent unmistakable signals and references. So, at bedtime it is important to continue with your usual habits and activities, whatever they are: reading a book, singing a lullaby, saying goodnight to favorite toys, or any other ritual.
- Limit screen time
The screen of modern electronic devices such as tv, smartphones and tablets, emits a specific type of light, the so called “blue light”, which can interfere with the capability of falling asleep, both for grownups and little ones. So, when bedtime approaches, it is crucial to limit children’s exposure to screens, at least an hour before going to bed. This will help them naturally wind down and prepare for sleep.
- Encourage daytime physical activity
Practicing physical activity during the day can help children feel more tired at night and sleep better. Playing outside, walking, running, or engaging in other physical activities can be very helpful. Spending some time outside and being exposed to natural light will also help them reset theirs internal clock and adjust to the new time.
Spending time in the fresh air and in natural light generates healthy and useful tiredness. (Photo credits: Prostooleh from Freepik).
- Create a sleep-conducive environment
Also the house environment, and specifically the bedroom, can help children sleep better and adjust to the time change more smoothly. We have already addressed some aspects of this issue in a previous article. When it comes to time change, everything that is related to light and dark takes on relevance as children can be confused by the presence of natural light at evening hours.
Thus, it is crucial that the bedroom is cool, quiet and, of course, dark enough to induce sleep, thanks to the help of curtains and blinds to block out any external light that might disturb their sleep.
PATIENCE AND FLEXIBILITY
Finally, be patient and try to be flexible: when such a change occurs, your children may need to sleep also at different, unusual times. It may take a few extra days for children to get used to the new rhythm but with the right attitude and consistency they will get use to their new schedule.
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For those wishing to learn more, below are some useful links to studies and research on the subject:
National Sleep Foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/daylight-saving-time
Sleep Education by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: https://sleepeducation.org/adjust-sleep-schedule-minimize-effect-daylight-saving-time/