How Daylight Saving Affects Young Children
Mar 30 2020
Parents, don’t stay up. One third of kids won’t sleep in any later.
Autumn is a delightful time of year. The air turns crisp, leaves change color, and it's time to cozy up in your woolen layers. We're also treated to an extra hour of sleep with the Fall Daylight Saving Time change. Unless you have a young child. Every year we hear people mention that their toddler did some twilight zone math and instead of sleeping in an extra hour, woke up 2 hours earlier. It only makes it worse to have had the expectation of more shuteye, and then get robbed of it. Given our focus at Huckleberry on improving children’s sleep, we wondered whether there is more to this. How does Daylight Saving really affect children? Is there actually a warped effect on them, and if so, how can we prevent it? We looked at a data set of about 2000 children from across the US and Canada. This data set was pulled from our company’s user base (we have a tracking app and pair pediatric sleep experts with AI to create custom sleep plans for children). We then examined how children were affected by last year’s time change.
What we found
44% of parents corrected for the Daylight Saving Time Change (DST) by putting their children to sleep 30 minutes or later than usual the night before. That’s pretty good. However, 34% of children end up waking 30 minutes or more earlier than usual on the morning after DST. For example, if a child usually woke up 7am before the time change, they ended up waking at 6:30am or earlier, even with parental adjustment. This was more pronounced for toddlers and preschoolers than for babies (40% vs. 32%). Furthermore, 18% woke an extra hour or more earlier. So while the majority will wake up either close to their usual time or even sleep in, there’s still a solid one-third of families who should not expect any extra slumber. The takeaway is to still take steps to adjust for daylight saving (see below), but don’t be disappointed if you miss out on the extra hour of sleep because you’re in good company.
How to adjust for the Fall Daylight Saving Time Change
There is hope. Here are two strategies to manage the Autumn time change and minimize disruptions to your child’s sleep. Gradual method
Best for babies, children who easily get overtired, early-risers, or parents who like to plan ahead. For each of the 4 days before the clock switches over:
Delay bedtime by 15 minutes and keep bright lights on in the evening.
Keep the lights off 15 minutes longer in the morning.
If possible, shift the entire sleep and eating schedule 15 minutes later each day.
Best for children who don’t get overtired easily, aged 1 year and up.
Delay bedtime by 30 minutes and keep bright lights on in the evening for 2 days.
Keep the lights off 30 minutes longer in the morning for 2 days.
If possible, shift the entire sleep and eating schedule 30 minutes later for 2 days.