Start now to help kids cope with time change when clocks spring forward

The “spring forward” time change happens Sunday, March 10, and a sleep expert says it’ll be easier for kids to “lose” an hour of sleep on Monday morning if parents start preparing them now.

“Anticipate the time change and discuss it with the kids, and say, ‘Here’s the plan,'” said Dr. Robert Kowatch, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and pediatric sleep disorders medicine specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“It’s always helpful to anticipate and plan for these things and do it gradually,” Kowatch said.

Kowatch advised making wake up and bed times 15 minutes earlier each day, starting Thursday.

“If they move forward in 15 minute increments, then most people can do just fine with the time change,” Kowatch said. “So, that Monday morning, when you have to get up at (what feels like) 6 a.m., it’s going to be OK. You’re not going to feel those (bad) effects.”

Kowatch warned that children unprepared for the time change might struggle to get out of bed on Monday, feel tired and irritable, and perhaps fall asleep in class.

The impact of the time change has the potential of being even more pronounced on kids with some mental health disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, which impact between 8 to 10 percent of children and adolescents, Kowatch said.

“They tend to feel the time changes more acutely and struggle with it more,” he added.

Here are some tips to help people of all ages get better sleep:

  • Remove phones, tablets and TVs from the bedroom.
  • Don’t exercise right before bed.
  • Don’t consume caffeine eight hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before going to bed.
  • Keep the room dark and cool.

Find more advice and information about children’s mental health at OnOurSleeves.org.

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