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The End of Daylight Savings Time Can Cause Sleep Problems in Children

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Dear Delialah,

I wanted to ask you if you can recommend any natural treatments for helping small chidlren fall asleep. For the past 2 years, my 2 youngest children have had a hard time getting used to the time change when we set the clocks back in the fall. Last year it took over 2 weeks for them to get back on schedule. Any suggestions to help avoid this?

Thanks,

Kendra S, Charlotte

Dear Kendra,

Daylight savings time is coming to an end. Moms and dads usually welcome the opportunity to set the clocks back and take advantage of an extra hour of sleep. The time change however, can have some negative health effects on children, most commonly a disruption in their normal sleep pattern.

We all have our own internal sleep cycle or internal clock. For adults and older children, resetting that internal clock is no difficult task. However, babies, toddlers and small children often have a difficult time making the transition to a new bedtime. Simply turning the physical clock back one hour makes no difference to the internal clock of a small child. This can lead to difficulty adjusting to the time change, trouble falling asleep, interrupted sleep, irritability and daytime sleepiness. This is especially troublesome for preschoolers and children in daycare who have a set schedule to follow throughout the day.

Fortunately, there are some very effective, natural sleep-aids that parents can use to help make the transition easier for small children. Chamomile is one of the most popular natural sleep aids. It is safe for all ages, including infants. It has a relatively mild flavor that is somewhat sweet, so most children can handle it in tea form, either hot or cold. It can also be mixed with juice.

Valerian Root is one of the most effective sleep aids for both children over 3 years of age and adults. It can be made into a tea or given as an extract. It has some bite to it, so many parents try to dull the bitter taste by sweeting it up with some honey. There are limited studies on the use of valerian root in infants and toddlers, so parents should speak with their physician or health care provider before administering it to children under 3. It is generally recommended for adults and children over the age of 3.

Additional tips to help prevent disturbances in your child’s sleep cycle include gradually changing your child’s bedtime a few days before it is time to set the clocks back. Start by pushing the bedtime up by 15 minutes and every few days continue to push it up in 15 minute increments. Parents can also allow children to sleep a little longer in the mornings, following that same 15 minute pattern.

As always, be sure to speak with your health care provider before administering any medication or natural remedies to your child.

Best Regards,

Delialah

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