How Daylight Saving Time Affects Some Kids' Mental Health

By Beth Leipholtz 03/13/19

Experts break down the impact of daylight saving time on kids with mental health issues.

Image: 
child sleeping after daylight saving time

Children with mental health diagnoses may be more prone to struggle with sleep around daylight saving time, according to physicians from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. 

WMBF News reports that doctors there have observed changes in sleeping patterns around daylight saving time in many young patients—especially those with a mental health diagnoses.

“Sleep is a more complicated issue for patients with a mental health disorder,” Robert Kowatch, child and adolescent psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist at Nationwide, said in a news release. “Different conditions affect sleep differently, as do various medications for these conditions and their related side effects. These patients may be more sensitive to time changes than the typical child or teen.”

Some of the physicians’ observations around daylight saving include the following: 

  • Children struggling with depression and anxiety may struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Children diagnosed with autism have the tendency to sleep one to two hours less than their peers and tend to awake earlier in the mornings. 

Those with bipolar disorder tend to sleep less when experiencing manic or hypomanic episodes, and in some instances any change in their circadian rhythm (such as a time change) can lead to manic episodes. 

For some children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, taking certain stimulant medications close to their bedtime will make it harder to get to sleep.

“With many medications, an impact on sleep is a possible side effect, from interfering with falling asleep to resulting in next-day drowsiness,” Kowatch added in the release. “Parents and patients should create a plan with their clinician, and make sure dose schedules and amounts are properly followed, such as taking a longer-lasting dose earlier in the day followed by a shorter-lasting dose later in the day, so a stimulant can wear off—if necessary—in time for bed to allow for restful sleep.”

Natasha Mero, a sleep technician at Palmetto Sleep Labs LLC, tells WMBF that a lack of sleep can affect a person’s life in numerous ways, some dangerous. She also made a comparison between the effects of daylight savings and those of jetlag. 

“It can affect memory issues, it can affect alertness, mood,” Mero tells WMBF. “Sometimes people don’t get enough sleep, they can be depressed, help you concentrate. It definitely can affect driving. A lot of people can get in accidents if they don’t get enough sleep. We’ve seen several people come into the sleep lab where they fall asleep at the wheel because they’re not getting enough sleep at night, or get in a fender bender or fall asleep at a stop sign.”

In order to strive for better sleep, experts from Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommend limiting electronic time in the bedroom, avoiding heavy meals before sleeping, eliminating caffeine eight hours before bed, keeping bedrooms cool and dark, and avoiding any exercise before trying to sleep. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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