Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday (March 13), which means setting your clocks forward at 2 a.m. It also means “losing” an hour of precious sleep—and if you don’t help your family prepare, you could notice some extra yawns coming out of your kids’ mouths.
Fortunately, you can work to keep DST from wreaking havoc on your child’s Zzs, says sleep expert Shalini Paruthi, M.D., co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis and adjunct associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
In the week leading up to Daylight Saving Time:
Start making your child’s bedtime incrementally earlier. “If bedtime is normally 8:30, then maybe Monday night, have them go to bed at 8:20. Then on Tuesday, go to bed at 8:10, and so on,” Paruthi tells Real Simple. “If you do it in 10-minute increments for the week, then it’s a gradual change, so that when the clocks change, it’s OK.”
In the thick of Daylight Saving Time:
If you forgot about the time change until, well, the time changed, all hope isn't lost. Paruthi says it’s OK to go ahead and let your child sleep in a little bit on Sunday.
In the week after Daylight Saving Time:
If your child’s sleep is out of whack after the time change, it’s OK to allow some napping on the weekend, Paruthi says. But this is important: In the week following DST, make sure your child keeps waking up at the same time every day so that he or she gets used to the time change.
Overall, Paruthi encourages parents to make sure their children have a routine surrounding sleep (yes, even on weekends). And for teenagers specifically, it’s important to ensure they get enough sleep (eight to 10 hours) not just for their own health and mental functioning, but also to prevent drowsy driving. “We have 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds driving, and school already starts so early for these high-school-age students,” she says. “They’re already our most inexperienced drivers, and then you add a night of sleep deprivation on top of that—it’s really important for parents to take an active role in making sure their teenager gets enough sleep, and on the Daylight Saving Time weekend in particular.”