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Help children adjust to time change

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By The Staff

Sunday at 2 a.m. signals the beginning of daylight-saving time when children across the country will have their clocks turned ahead and lose an hour of much-needed sleep each night.

The sudden change can make morning routines, daily school activities and extra-curricular commitments that much more hectic.

But with a couple of well-planned adjustments, the time shift needn't be a difficult one.

Despite the change, children's sleep needs do not decrease and remain vitally important to their overall health.

It's important for parents to consider the potential negative impact of losing just one hour of sleep, especially in light of the fact that many children ages 7 to 12 gradually begin to have later bedtimes.

Daylight-saving time, which affects a quarter of the world's population and entails a one-hour change twice a year, reflects a change in social clocks, not just biological ones.

New studies show that children don't actually adjust to these changes in time so easily, especially the "Spring Forward" one that occurs on Sunday.

For parents, this minimal loss of sleep can wreak havoc on children's natural sleep systems.

The daylight-saving time change may be just days away, but there is still time to ensure that the shift does not negatively impact children's sleep patterns and daily routines.

Here are 10 tips parents can follow to ensure their children gain a good night's sleep despite the time change:

•Make sure that your child is well rested, prior to the change.

•Maintain your child's regular sleep, wake and nap times. Try not to compensate for the lost hour by delaying bedtime or allowing your child to sleep in. This will only increase the time it will take to adjust to the transition. There may be some crankiness from being tired, but this should last only a day or two.

•Make gradual adjustments. Some parents find it is best to try to start making adjustments on Saturday night, rather than waiting until Sunday, which is a school night. Try making a slow transition starting tonight before the time change, by moving your child's bedtime earlier by 30 minutes. By Sunday night, you will be right back on schedule.

•Create a sleep-conducive environment that's dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.

•Use a supportive, clean pillow that is best suited to your child's specific sleep needs. The Web site, SleepBetter.org offer a Zzzz Score test to help identify kids' individual sleep scores and needs.

•Exercise regularly. They should have completed their exercise about 4 hours before bedtime.

•Avoid caffeine, as this can disrupt sleep.

•Do not use over-the-counter medications like Benadyrl and cough syrups to knock children out. This prevents their natural ability to eventually adjust to the time change.

•Start the "winding down" process about one hour before bedtime. Include a hot soaking bath and reading, etc., but eliminate Internet time and video games.

•Remember, your child will adjust to the time change within a few days to a week.

By following these 10 simple tips, parents and children alike can ease gradually into the change and go about their lives with little to no additional stress.

For more tips on sleep improvement, visit SleepBetter.org.