Pretty soon, the clocks go forward as we “spring ahead” on Sunday, March 12th at 2 AM. We set our clocks ahead an hour as we re-enter Daylight Saving Time. If you do not have children (and are not working overnight), this is a bit of a bummer and you lose an hour of sleep. If you do have kids, it may help you a bit, but it can be complicated.
(If you hate this, I may have some good news for you. There is a bipartisan push in Congress to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. However, I think this would be a terrible idea for children).
(By the way, I wrote an article a few years ago in the New York Times on the effect of starting and ending daylight saving time on kids’ sleep.)
Interestingly, in my sleep medicine practice, sleep disruption beyond a simple time shift seems to occur, most commonly in the form of night-time awakenings and irritability. I have found that this has seemed particularly exaggerated in children with autism and other developmental delays. It’s really important to adhere to your child’s schedule to minimize these effects.
Here’s a video I made to explain the effects of Daylight Savings Time:
If you have younger kids, this can be a net positive if your kids are early risers in that their apparent wake time will be an hour later. So if you child typically gets up at 5:30 AM and you are not happy about it, just wait a few days.
Why teens (and others) struggle with “springing ahead”
For many teenagers, it may be more problematic as most teenagers go to bed too late and get up too late as is. Grown-ups also struggle with this. (If you struggle to get up with your alarm in the morning, you may also have a hard time– this advice may be useful for you as well). It may be difficult for them to adjust to going to bed an hour earlier on this Sunday night.
What to do if you are worried your child won’t be able to get up on time after DST begins
Depending on how much difficulty your teenager has with falling asleep at night and getting up in the morning, there are a couple of different interventions you can try.
Everybody: Most teenagers and adults will benefit from getting up an hour earlier the day after “springing ahead” to avoid significant insomnia on Sunday night. It’s critical to get up at his/her “typical” clock time on Sunday (e.g. if they typically wake up at 10 AM on Sundays, they continue to even though they lose an hour of sleep.) They will be more tired on Sunday night and have an easier time going to sleep by leveraging natural sleep drive. So, for someone who sleeps from 11 PM-10 AM on weekends, do the following :
1. Saturday: Go to bed 11 PM (OLD TIME)
2. Sunday: Get up 10 AM (NEW TIME)
For teens and others with significant difficulty getting up in the morning already. Moving bedtime earlier by 20 minutes a night for two nights if you can talk them into it. (Remember, it is always harder to go to be harder earlier than later, especially for teens). Adjusting wake time is more important that falling asleep time. For someone with a 10 PM-6AM schedule on weekdays and 11 PM-10 AM on weekends:
- Thursday Night: Bedtime 9:40 PM Friday wake time 5:40 AM
- Friday Night: Bedtime 10:20 PM Saturday wake time 9:20 AM
3. Saturday Night: Bedtime 10 PM Sunday wake time: 10 AM (new time)
For teens and others with severe insomnia and/or difficulty getting up in the morning already. This should be a small minority of people. This may also include teens with autism who often struggle more than others with these transitions. Moving bedtime earlier by 10 minutes a night for five nights if you can talk them into it. (Remember, it is always harder to go to bed earlier than later, especially for teens). Adjusting wake time is more important that falling asleep time. For someone with a 10 PM-6 AM schedule on weekdays and 11 PM-10 AM on weekends:
- Monday Night: Bedtime 9:50 PM Tuesday wake time 5:50 AM
- Tuesday Night: Bedtime 9:40 PM Wednesday wake time 5:40 AM
- Wednesday Night: Bedtime 9:30 PM Thursday wake time 5:30 AM
- Thursday Night: Bedtime 9:20 PM Friday wake time 5:20 AM
- Friday Night: Bedtime 10:10 PM Saturday wake time 9 AM
- Saturday Night: Bedtime 10 PM Sunday Wake time: 10 AM (new time)
So, does this article resonate with you Do you plan to make any adjustment before the clocks go forward?