Doc Talk – Springing Forward With the Kids

By Christina Elston

children's health

The time change can make kids sleepy, which means they can be more hyperactive, they can have trouble focusing at school, they can act out or get into fights with siblings. PHOTO COURTESY FREEDIGITALIMAGES.COM

We switch to Pacific Daylight Time at 2 a.m. March 12. Most of us know it as “springing forward,” but it hardly makes us – or our kids – feel springy. Monika Mathur, M.D., a neurologist with the pediatric division of the Long Beach Adult & Pediatric Sleep Center at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach, offers advice for getting the kids back in step.

Does the time change impact all ages the same?

Younger children actually do a lot better with the time change. They’re generally natural early risers. With daylight savings, this can be hard for the parent who is dealing with a bright and perky toddler an hour earlier than they’re used to.

On the other hand, teenagers have a lot of trouble with it. Teenagers like to stay up late and wake up late. So, with the time change, they now have to go to bed and wake up an hour earlier than they’re used to.

Does the time change have effects on us beyond just making us a little extra sleepy?

Definitely. Think about the last time that you stayed up late binge watching Netflix. The next day, it was probably hard to get out of bed in the morning. You’re cranky, it’s hard to concentrate at work, you’re probably more on edge than you normally would be. For kids, they can be more hyperactive, they can have trouble focusing at school, they can act out or get into fights with siblings.

Not getting enough sleep can have effects on our productivity, our heart, our weight, our mood, even our relationships with other people.

Are there ways parents can make this a little bit easier for the family?

About a week before Daylight Savings, parents can start shifting their kids’ schedule up a little bit. For instance, if their normal bedtime is 8 p.m., then the first day push it up to 7:45, and the next day 7:30, and the next day 7:15. And then eventually you’ll get up to 7 p.m., so that when the time change happens it’s not going to be such a shock.

Once the time change happens, is there anything parents can do to help those sleepy kids get out of bed?

Light is one of the biggest cues that tells our body what time it is. So first thing in the morning, open the blinds, have them go outside if you can, get as much of that light exposure as possible.

How long does it take the average child to adjust to the time change, and what are some signs that there could be a sleep problem?

It generally takes about a week to adjust to the time change. If the child is very sleepy during the day and taking naps a little bit more than they should need, or even being a little hyperactive during the day, these could be signs of sleep apnea. Other things that you can look for are loud snoring at night, gasping for air at night, also morning headaches or dry mouth. If your child has any of these symptoms, they should be seen by their pediatrician and referred to a pediatric sleep specialist.

Learn more about kids and sleep at www.MillerChildrens.org/Sleep or call (562) 728-5245.

For more tips on sleep health, check out Dr. Mathur’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/SleepNeuroWellness.

 

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