As winter begins to fade away, most people find themselves looking forward to the Spring time change, which brings with it longer days and warmer temperatures. The transition to Daylight Savings Time, however, does require a period of adjustment for most people due to losing an hour of sleep the night the clocks “spring forward.”

The human body is run by an internal clock, and some people have a harder time adjusting to the time change than others. For most adults, the adjustment period only lasts a couple of days and doesn’t extend beyond feeling a little tired. However, many don’t realize how much the transition can affect children and even teenagers by disrupting their sleep patterns and daily routines.

Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Pediatrician and Co-Medical Director of the Mettu Children’s Hospital Fritz Stine, DO, says the spring time change can throw a child’s internal clock out of sync and disrupt their sleep patterns, leading to potential behavioral changes.

“Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for overall well-being and development for our kiddos,” explained Dr. Stine. “When the time changes, whether we are falling back or springing forward, we can expect to see more grogginess in our toddlers and even our teenagers. Even though the time change is just one hour, it can have a huge impact on them.”

Dr. Stine said lack of sleep in children can manifest in various ways, including increased crankiness, difficulty concentrating and a decline in academic performance. He added that there are a few things parents can do to minimize the effects and help prepare for the next time change in the fall.

“Sometimes, it helps to adjust afternoon naptimes for toddlers and young children,” Stine said. “For teenagers, I encourage parents to enforce the ‘no devices in the bedroom’ rule. This is an important principle all the time, but especially during the time immediately before and after the time change.

Dr. Stine also emphasized the importance of a consistent bedtime routine which helps a child’s body recognize when it’s time to wind down. “There is no better substitute for a good sleep routine. Even for teenagers and adults, it is important to have a bedtime routine. This leads to better sleep, and better sleep helps us be better people.”

The effects of disrupted sleep can have long-term consequences for a child’s health and well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a host of health problems, including obesity, diabetes and even depression. To minimize the effects the time change has on children, parents can expose them to natural light in the morning and encourage them to play outside more, as this can help regulate their internal body clocks and promote better sleep quality.

Dr. Stine added that if children are affected by the spring time change and parents still see grogginess and irritability after a week has passed, it may be a good idea to see their pediatrician.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Stine or another Pikeville Medical Center pediatrician, call (606) 430-2207.