Young Asian-American girl waking up after a restful night's sleep

Adjusting bedtime for Daylight Saving Time

Kids need sleep to help them grow and learn.

A bedtime routine can help children get the sleep they need, but at least twice a year, that schedule gets disrupted.

Daylight Saving Time can throw us all off. That’s because we have an internal clock – called a circadian rhythm – that tells our brains and bodies when to go to sleep and when to wake up.

“Our internal clock has difficulty adjusting to the one-hour change overnight. But it can handle 15-minute changes fairly well. It’s difficult for adults and even more difficult for children, as they don’t understand what is going on. It is usually easier to ‘fall back’ than to ‘spring forward,’” said Kaninika Verma, MD, director of Sleep Medicine for OSF HealthCare.

Change bedtime gradually

While Daylight Saving Time happens literally overnight, you’ll be more successful if you work to adjust your child’s bedtime gradually over several days.

Dr. Verma suggests adjusting your schedule in 15-minute increments.

In the fall, this means going to bed about 15 minutes later each night ahead of the “fall back” transition. In the springtime, move bedtime 15 minutes earlier as clocks “spring forward.”

Bedtime routine tips

Having a bedtime routine can help kids calm down and triggers a response in their brain that it’s time to go to sleep. But creating or sticking to a bedtime routine can be tricky.

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Consider using some kind of visual reminder, so kids can easily see it’s time to get ready for bed and what to do next.

Make a list or cut out pictures of the steps in your afternoon or evening routine – eat dinner, playtime, a bath or reading books. Keep this somewhere your kids can see it and follow along as you go through your daily routine.

You can also use an analog clock (clock with two hands, rather than a digital face) and color in the areas of the day that are spent doing different activities, such as homework, play and preparing for bed.

A corresponding chart can help kids see what they should be doing when the hour hand is pointing to each section.

Last Updated: October 27, 2020

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About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale was a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: General, Kids & Family