Become Sleep Wise for Kids When ‘Springing Forward’

SPRINGFIELD — Mention the words ‘spring ahead’ or ‘fall back,’ and most adults will tell you it means they are either going to lose or gain an hour’s sleep.

Adjusting to the time change when Daylight Savings begins on Sunday, March 13 at 2 a.m. shouldn’t be a problem for most adults. However, it may be a different story for some children, wreaking havoc on their sleep patterns.

“While the time change shouldn’t be a concern for parents with newborns and younger babies, whose sleep patterns haven’t yet been established, older babies and children can be affected by the time change,” said Dr. Anthony Jackson, a board-certified pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “When asked by parents how to deal with the time change for their kids, our suggestion for bedtimes echoes what sleep specialists often tell adults — begin going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier a few days prior to the actual time change.”

Another recommendation is blackout blinds or room-darkening curtains to keep the light out in the evening and when the sun rises in the morning, Jackson said. “Our sleep is aided by the release of melatonin in our bodies. Light suppresses this essential hormone, which can make it more difficult for a child to fall asleep.”

Jackson offers six tips to help your child get a good night’s sleep:

• Set a regular bedtime and wakeup schedule for your child, and stick to it;

• Make your child’s bedroom a quiet, dark, cool environment for sleeping;

• Establish a relaxed bedtime routine. A warm bath before bed, singing or listening to soft music, warm milk, or story time all help a child relax and settle down;

• Avoid giving your child sugary snacks or drinks at least six hours before bedtime;

• Avoid scary stories or television shows and movies before bed. Even the evening news may be troubling to children before bed; and

• Make sure your child gets regular exercise. Avoid vigorous activities right before bed.

For kids who continue to struggle, Jackson recommends talking to the child’s pediatrician to make sure there is not an underlying issue causing the problem.

More than half of all Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep needs depend on many factors, including age. For most adults, seven to nine hours a night is recommended to achieve good health and optimum performance. It is recommended that children in preschool sleep between 10 and 13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 9 and 11 hours a night. Teenagers, on average, require about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.