How to prepare kids ahead of the time change

WASHINGTON — This weekend, we make the switch from daylight saving time to standard time. And even though we don’t “fall back” until Sunday, children should start adjusting before the change occurs.

“One way to adjust is simply to begin to gradually shift the clock in the days leading up to the change,” says Daniel Lewin, a sleep specialist with the Children’s National Health System.

Lewin says it can be helpful to move their bedtime ahead in increments — say, 15 minutes a night for four nights. And once the shift to standard time occurs, encourage them to stay in bed in the morning until a parent comes in to get them.

The whole idea is to keep children on a fairly regular sleep schedule. Lewin, a psychologist who is the associate director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, says consistency is key.

He says it is also a good idea to have blackout shades in a child’s room to prevent the morning light from waking them too early. “Light can be used at night in delaying sleep and can be used in the morning to cue wakeup times,” he explains.

Exactly how much difficulty a child has adapting to the change depends on several factors — including age and how well he or she sleeps through the night to begin with.

Lewin says some will be tired during the day immediately after the switch to standard time, but will soon adapt.

“If you give them the opportunity to sleep on a regular schedule and maintain that regularity once the time changes, then they will adjust within one to three days.”

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