Daylight Saving Time can make kids ‘cranky and irritable’

Turns out, even in the days of limited travel, people can have all the grogginess and crankiness of jet lag without the fun associated with voyaging to a different time zone.

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, meaning everyone is supposed to set their clocks back one hour. Though Daylight Saving, which starts in March when people typically push clocks ahead one hour, was originally intended as a way to conserve energy and make better use of daylight, some experts said it often feels like more trouble than it’s worth.

That’s particularly true for the first day or so after the time shift, said Dr. Philip Greenspan, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist with Yale New Haven Health.

“Our bodies are set to a certain rhythm,” he said. “What happens when that (rhythm) changes is like a kind of jet lag. Our bodies have to adjust to that change.”

That can lead to temporary grogginess and sleepiness, Greenspan said. For children, who need sleep to develop properly, shifting that hour can be particularly difficult, said Dr. Taralyn Cronin-Weir, pediatrics specialist with Yale New Haven Health.

During time changes, she said, children can get thrown off their sleep schedule.

“They can be cranky or irritable,” she said.

Some experts have argued that the impact of Daylight Saving is a bit more dire than some sleepiness and a bad attitude. In August, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a position statement, arguing for a switch from Daylight Saving to a permanent standard time.

The position paper cited several possible health drawbacks to Daylight Saving Time, including an increased risk of stroke to a rise in traffic fatalities. The sleep medicine academy also referenced a research abstract published in May that found an 18 percent increase in adverse medical events related to human error in the week after switching to Daylight Saving.

“A change to permanent standard time is best aligned with human circadian biology and has the potential to produce beneficial effects for public health and safety,” the statement read.

Until that happens, Greenspan and Cronin-Weir said the best people can do is learn to live with Daylight Saving. Cronin-Weir said parents wishing to keep their kids sleep schedule on track can use the next few days to gradually shift them to an earlier bedtime to prepare their bodies for the change.

And Greenspan said people should keep in mind that any grogginess they feel after the time shift isn’t permanent. “It usually takes about a day for every hour you shift to recover,” he said.

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