Helping Your Kids "Fall Back"

Sleeping kid with clock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Sleeping kid with clock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The Fall of the year brings about so many changes – colorful leaves, falling temperatures, warmer clothing, and active school schedules. While many of these changes are met with great enthusiasm, one change is often met much less enthusiastically – the dreaded end of Daylight Saving Time or “Fall Back”.

Even though the majority of folks in the U.S. face “Fall Back” each year, it still seems to take many of us off guard.  For days (sometimes even weeks!) after, we hear people say things like, “I’m so tired! Must be the time change!”  Or, “I cannot get motivated since we turned back the clocks”.  And, as much as this affects adults, the impact on children can be even greater.  It has been noted that the change in time can affect people just the same as jet lag from a cross country flight!

The change in time (and the resultant change in the exposure to light), disrupts the circadian rhythm – the normal internal sleep/wake cycle as well as bodily systems like metabolism in both children and adults.  In order to maintain a healthy balance, any change should be very gradual.  And, a one hour change within one day is simply too abrupt.  That is why it sometimes takes many days to feel normal after the time changes.

Dealing with the fallout from your kids’ behavior during “Fall Back” can be especially challenging.  Cranky sleep-deprived children coupled with shortened daylight hours can cause frayed nerves and stressful times.  To help with the “Fall Back” transition, consider implementing the following tips:

  • Try gradually adjusting kids’ bedtimes before the change.  Since the time actually changes overnight Saturday-Sunday, begin delaying bedtimes by 10-15 minutes each night beginning the Tuesday or Wednesday before.  This gradual adjustment is easier to assimilate to than one hour full-blown.
  • Consider using room-darkening shades or blinds in your child’s room.  While darkness comes earlier, so does dawn!  Preventing the bright early morning sun from shining in your child’s eyes may prevent the child from awakening prematurely.
  • Avoid artificial light from TV and other devices at least one hour before bedtime.  Because exposure to artificial light limits the production of melatonin (the hormone responsible for regulating the body's sleep/wake cycle), avoiding artificial light from electronic devices is important at all times of the year.  This is especially true during “Fall Back”.
  • Establish or maintain calm bedtime routines like baths, reading and possibly “white noise” to aid in promoting restful sleep.
  • Stick to regular daily routines regarding wake time, meals, naps and activities.  This helps a child’s body assimilate to the time change more quickly.
  • Maintain your own patterns and routines as well. Ensuring you are eating healthy, exercising and getting your proper sleep will help you better deal with your children as they make the adjustment.

But, if your efforts do not work, (or if “Fall Back” sneaks up on you again this year!), do not feel you are doomed. Just be ready to exercise a bit of patience with both your children and yourself. Once your bodies have a few days to adjust to the change, you will all be back to feeling normal again.  Well, at least until “Spring Forward” anyway!