Drowsy Dogs and Cranky Kids


Every fall my father has to fight a little harder to get his dog, Alpha, out of bed in the morning. As long as it is dark outside, she won't budge. Her energy starts to flag earlier in the evenings too: if her people won't call it a night early enough, she attempts to herd family members toward bed. Although perennially amusing, Alpha's shift in schedule is completely understandable given the shorter days.

We humans may be feeling the effects of less daylight too. As well, the shift from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time can be stressful. While plenty of people don't experience any sleep disruption when the clocks change, part of the population does. Some people will say they feel jet lagged for several days or more. Yet, unlike when one experiences jet lag, the amount and timing of daylight does not change as the clocks change, perhaps making Standard Time a more difficult mental adjustment than schedule alterations due to travel. Many of us have no problem staying up "later" to keep with the hour shown on the clock, but we awake at the hour we did during Daylight Saving Time, groggier because of a lost hour's sleep.

Children are certainly not immune to the difficulties we adults experience when the time changes. While we like to think of young folks as more resilient and energetic, they lack the agency, emotional regulation, and inhibition that adults use to manage our fatigue. This coming week is, therefore, a time when children in your life might appreciate a little extra help and empathy. It is also a time to be an alert for higher emotions. Homes and classrooms may seem less harmonious than usual. Don't worry: the Halloween goblins are not setting up permanent residence. As soon as sleep patterns return to normal, so will behavior patterns.

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