Whether you are traveling across time zones to see Grandma and Grandpa, or having a sleep over across the city at your sister’s house for New Year’s Eve, there are challenges to getting your kids the sleep they need during the holiday season.
What can you do to help your loved ones stay well rested?
1. Stick to your schedule as much as possible.
While it is tempting to skip nap time to stay out ice skating, or delay bedtime until Dora finds the pyramids, the best thing you can do while away from home is get your kids to bed at their usual time. They will be waking up at the same time in the morning regardless. It is easy to write this, but I know this can be very hard. While traveling in a time zone 1 hour ahead of my own, I spent a lot of my trip obsessing about when I would get my son to sleep, in fear of jeopardizing my own night time sleep should he become overtired and have more frequent night wakings. Really, just do the best you can.
2. Re-create your positive sleep environment from home
If you use a sleep sack and/or a lovie, it is easy to bring these with you and have these familiar sleep cues from home. Keeping the room dark helps keep distractions of a new environment at bay. Give your hosts the heads up that you’ll need a dark room so they can borrow or create some dark out curtains ahead of time. If your child doesn’t use “white noise” at home, this might be a great tool to test out on the road, as it can block out new distracting sounds from your host’s home.
3. Managing time zone jumps
Decide in advance how to tackle the time zone jump. If you are traveling to a time zone just 1 hour ahead or behind, it might be easier to keep your child on their existing schedule and time. Getting up at 5 am with your little one when everyone else won’t be up until 6 am might seem a little lonely, but it is a simple solution if you are up for it. If you are traveling into a time zone with a 3 hour time shift things, this is much more challenging. You can consider using the week or days before your departure to shift your child’s sleep by half the change, or 1.5 hours by working in 15 minute increments per day. For example, if the time is shifting backwards, than keeping your baby up 15 minutes longer at bedtime for 6 days in a row to reach the 1.5 hr change, and then dealing with the rest when you arrive at your destination. The duration of your stay in the different time zone and the number of hours in the time change should be taken into consideration to formulate your plan.
4. Be patient
There is no fast and easy solution to traveling with children. Chances are your child will get overtired at some point introducing the risk of more frequent night wakings, early wakings and for toddlers, increase in bad behavior. When this happens, take a deep breathe, this too shall pass.
5. Be prepared to pick up the pieces when back at home
Once you are back home and back into your routine, you may have to institute previous sleep strategies that you used to get your baby sleeping well, such as sleep training. Luckily, this won’t take as long as it did the first time you introduced it.
If things aren’t going well for you while you are traveling and you are tired, remember… this too shall pass. Congratulate yourself for even venturing out of your safe environment and participating in the holiday season. It is a lot less stressful to stay home ….. but missing out on sleep is a lot better than missing out on memories.
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