It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a week away! I know a lot of us are going to be traveling over the holidays, and traveling with a small child presents its own special set of challenges. So with that in mind, today we’re going to discuss how to deal with jet lag and get your child adjusting to a new time zone quickly and with as little fuss as possible.Rather read than watch? Click here.
I know a lot of people are planning trips over the Christmas season and I get a lot of emails around the holidays asking, you know, “What do I do about jet lag? I have an eight hour, a ten hour, a fourteen hour flight,” and everybody shudders to think of how that will affect their children. So I want to give you a few tips here today to handle jet lag and air travel.
First of all, when you’re flying with a child, it doesn’t matter what age, what you need to keep in mind is that you are flying with a child, and it’s not going to be a luxurious trip where you’re having martinis and watching your iPad. You have a child, so my advice is to just survive it. I sort of throw rules out the window when it comes to air travel. If it means you’re getting more treats than you normally do, fine. If it means you’re watching your iPad and watching movies on the plane for the entire trip, fine. You just have to get through it. So make sure you plan ahead. What are the things you’re going to need to keep this child occupied as much as possible through a plane ride? Snacks, books coloring, music, you name it, plan ahead for it.
If that also means that there are times in the flight where you have to rock her to sleep, nurse her to sleep, put a pacifier in her mouth until she falls asleep, I’m going to give you a go-head on that. Just get through it, right? There’s no point in trying to force her to go to sleep when she’s not in her crib, or endure an hour long screaming-fest on the plane, when if you pop that soother in her mouth she might just fall asleep pretty quickly, so I’m going to give you a go-ahead on that one.
Once you’ve landed, most people have a sleep debt, right? Most adults have sleep debts. We, as adults, tend to mismanage our sleep schedule and therefore we start a trip already in debt. So that makes jet lag even worse for an adult, because you’re already in a debt, you travel, you drive yourself into a deeper debt, and now when you get to your location, you’re just shattered for the next five days because your debt’s so huge.
But the good news about children is that, especially children who sleep well, is that they don’t have a debt. They’re almost essentially debt-free when you start a trip. And yes, they will slip into a little bit of a debt because no one sleeps as well as they should on an airplane. I can’t think of a less comfortable place to sleep than an airplane. So nobody’s getting a lot of sleep there, and so they will land with a debt. But that is in your benefit actually, to have a little bit of a debt accumulated by the time you land, because now you can quickly get into the new time zone as fast as you can. And that’s my advice around that. Don’t try to hang onto the time zone that you just came from. Our bodies are aware on some level that time has changed, and they will gravitate towards that change no matter what you do. So it’s better to just jump in as fast as you can on day one, try to adjust her schedule as quickly as you can to the new time zone, and that debt will help.
Another thing to do is to make sure that the child is getting a lot of daytime light during daylight hours, so go for walks, go to the park, get her out in the sunlight. That will help the body clock. Daytime light really is a huge player in our circadian rhythm or our “body clock” so lots of daytime sunlight, and then, when evening rolls around, I’d like you to give at least two hours of dim or dark room lighting so that melatonin can start to kick in and get the body clock in line with bedtime. So shut those blackout blinds, turn off those electronics, and give your child at least two hours of “melatonin kick-in” let’s call it, so that they can get onto the new schedule as quick as possible.
Now, will this mean that baby might need an oddly timed nap just to get you through the first day or two? That’s fine. We want to always be cautious that we’re not driving our children too far into over-tiredness, but a little bit is actually going to be in your benefit here.
Alright? So that’s about as good news as I can get for you. Jet lag is jet lag, we’re all going to get it. Everybody’s body clock takes a little bit of a hit when we travel through time zones, but the good news is, it should only take a couple of days to get her body clock into the new time zone, and then just do it in reverse when you get home and just adjust back into your schedule, and just do the best that you can. Alright?
Thanks so much! Have a happy holiday! Sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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