A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Easy tricks for adjusting to time change

Young boy sleeping at the breakfast table - adjusting sleep schedule for daylight saving time

Kids have a more difficult time adjusting to seasonal time change than adults.

Daylight saving time is almost over – which means it’s time to turn back our clocks. These types of time changes are harder on kids than adults, said Dr. Hema Murali, a Marshfield Clinic pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.

“Adults tend to be chronically sleep deprived and aren’t very mindful of their internal clocks,” she said. “Children respect their internal clocks more.”

Good sleep habits year round make time changes easier. Make sure children get enough sleep each night. Their bedrooms should be dark and quiet. Turn media off two hours before bedtime and keep TVs, tablets and cellphones out of their bedrooms.

Try these tricks to help kids adjust to the time change. Adults – the same advice applies to you if you’re feeling off after you change the clocks.

Spring ahead with earlier bedtimes, morning sunshine

We lose an hour of sleep in the spring by setting clocks ahead when daylight saving time starts. Waking up for school Monday is a drag because kids’ internal clocks are telling them to sleep another hour.

Adjust to the time change by having kids go to bed 15 minutes earlier each day for four days before daylight saving time starts.

Exposure to bright light helps advance sleep onset time. Open the curtains to let sunlight in and make kids feel more awake.Daylight saving time begins sleep schedule - in the spring, adjust bedtime the week before daylight saving time begins


Fall back with later bedtimes, less sunlight

The opposite advice applies in fall, when we turn back the clocks and kids tend to wake before the sun rises.

Send kids to bed 15 minutes later each day for three days before daylight saving time ends.

Keep kids in bed longer once the time changes by keeping curtains closed in the morning, Murali said.

Daylight saving time ends sleep schedule - in the fall, adjust bedtime the week before daylight saving time ends

Time change tips for travelers

“Traveling west usually is well-tolerated,” Murali said. “Traveling east through several time zones can affect your ability to function.”

It takes about a day to recover for each time zone you cross traveling east. These tips will make the adjustment easier.

  1. Go to bed an hour earlier each day for three days before traveling. Seek sunlight when you wake up.
  2. Sleep on the plane. Stretch and drink water when you’re awake.
  3. Limit sunlight exposure during local morning hours and seek sunlight in the afternoon the first few days. This advances your internal clock, making falling asleep and waking up easier.
  4. Take melatonin if you’re having trouble sleeping. Adults need only 3 milligrams. One-half to 1 milligram is enough for kids.
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  1. Mar 5, 2020
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