HOUSTON (March 10, 2016)

It’s a nuisance for any parent: As daylight saving time ushers in an extra hour of sunlight, the time change also wreaks havoc on children’s sleep schedules. Kids have a harder time falling asleep when it’s still light outside. And dark mornings can make for groggy, and even unsafe, trips to the bus stop.

All that sleep deprivation can upend a family’s regular routine. Studies have shown that children who fail to get adequate sleep have a difficult time concentrating in the classroom and tend to earn poorer grades than their peers. But with a little advanced planning, parents can help prepare their little ones to adjust to the new schedule so they stay rested, happy and healthy.

“As the clock springs forward an hour, kids have more than a temptation to sleep in,” said Richard J. Castriotta, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Their biorhythms have been thrown off. By moving the clock forward, we’re artificially changing their natural sleep/wake cycle. Ideally, schools would accommodate this by starting later, but since that’s not a possibility, we have to train kids into a new circadian rhythm.”

As daylight saving time approaches this weekend, Dr. Castriotta offers a few, easy tips to help children ease into a new routine of longer days:

Children need much more sleep than adults realize. Teenagers in high school should be logging at least nine hours per night. A junior high student needs about 10 hours while younger children need 11 hours or more.

And the consequences for children who aren’t well-rested can be serious and long-lasting. “Studies show that the difference between kids who get A’s and B’s and those that C’s, D’s and F’s can be as little as 30 minutes of sleep per night,” Dr. Castriotta said. “If your kid isn’t getting enough rest, you’re sending him to school in a fog. He’s not able to pay attention to what’s being said and what’s going on. That’s like sending a near-sighted child to school without glasses, or a hearing-impaired child without a hearing aid.”