03/08/2013 02:05 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Return to daylight time this weekend more disruptive for kids and teens: expert

TORONTO - The idea of losing an hour of sleep this weekend may seem daunting to adults, but experts caution the return to daylight time could be even more disruptive for kids and teens.

Younger Canadians are a notoriously sleep-deprived group, they said, adding that Sunday's "spring forward" has the potential to bring even more disorder to unstable nighttime routines.

Dr. Shelly Weiss, a pediatric sleep expert with Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, said kids and teens can feel the effects of losing a single hour of sleep for up to one week.

With a few precautionary steps, however, Weiss said weary parents need not add over-tired offspring to their list of stressers for the coming days.

"It's harder to adjust in the spring because you're going forward, but if parents already have good routines, it's pretty simple to change," she said in a telephone interview.

Weiss said the easiest way to handle the coming transition is to start phasing in the time shift a few days in advance.

For young kids, Weiss advises shifting bedtime ahead by 10 or 15 minutes each night in the few days leading up to daylight time.

This gradual approach, she said, will help regulate the child's circadian rhythm or internal body clock and mitigate the effects of losing an hour of shuteye on Saturday night.

Solutions for teens are less straightforward, she said, adding many resist the notion of a stable bedtime and would balk further at the notion of going to bed earlier.

For them, Weiss recommends removing laptops, cellphones and other electronics from the bedroom. Such a move would eliminate potential bedtime distractions while also creating a darker room that's more conducive to sleep, she said.

Moving breakfast up in the days leading up to the time change may also help teenagers adjust, she said.

Such steps may seem unpopular, but Weiss said they would go some way to addressing a chronic problem that dogs the country's youth.

Weiss said research suggests a quarter of parents report that their children have trouble sleeping, a phenomenon she chalks up in part to poor sleep habits.

The pending time change, she suggested, may give parents a chance to revisit the subject with their kids and implement some long-term changes.

"Unfortunately there are many children who don't have a regular routine or a regular sleep and wake time," Weiss said. "It gives you a good chance to think about how you could improve that around daylight savings in an ongoing way."

Clocks spring forward at 2 a.m. on Sunday except in most of Saskatchewan as well as parts of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version wrongly said a return to standard time in the first sentence