Kids, Sleep and Daylight Saving Time: What Parents Need to Know
Mar 06, 2020
Ahhh, spring is coming! For many in the United States, this means turning your clocks forward an hour. And it means the sun staying up until later in the evenings. While this is generally a relief after a dark and dreary winter, daylight saving time can also wreak havoc on your child’s sleep schedule – especially if they have a mental health condition.
Children with mental health conditions may be more sensitive to time changes than the typical child or teen. This can be the direct result of the condition itself or the medication they take due to their condition.
Children and teens with bipolar disorder often sleep less when manic, or hypomanic. In certain circumstances, changes in the circadian rhythm of a person with bipolar disorder can cause a manic episode, and this can be triggered by the change in time.
Depression may make it more difficult for a child to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Teens with anxiety often struggle with insomnia because their anxiety makes it difficult to relax and fall asleep.
Children with autism tend to sleep one to two hours less than other children their age, and they also wake up earlier, although researchers currently do not know the cause of this trend.
In some patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, stimulant medications can cause “rebound hyperactivity” close to bedtime, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
If your child experiences an increase in symptoms related to their mental health condition around the time change, talk with your child’s doctor for advice about how to ease the transition.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule for a child or adolescent is part of a solid foundation for every family’s well-being. Below are tips that can help your child get enough z’s - regardless of the time of year or whether they have a mental health condition:
Devices like phones, tablets or televisions should be turned off or removed from the bedroom. An alternative is listening to calming sounds.
Do not eat heavy meals before bed. A light, healthy snack is acceptable.
Do not drink caffeinated beverages eight hours before bedtime.
Keep bedrooms dark and cool and use comfortable bedding.
Do not exercise right before bed.
Don’t forget – clocks spring forward at 2 a.m. the second Sunday of March and fall back at 2 a.m. the first Sunday of November.
For more information about children’s mental health and to help break the silence and stigma around mental illness, visit OnOurSleeves.org.
David Axelson, MD is recognized nationally and internationally for his work in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry, pediatric bipolar disorder, diagnostic biomarkers for pediatric mood disorders, and pediatric psychopharmacology.
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