Before you have kids, jet lag is definitely a nuisance—it’s never fun to be wide awake at 3 a.m. when you just want a good night’s rest and wake up refreshed for new adventures. But traveling with kids across different time zones is a whole new ballgame and can leave you scrambling to try any jet lag tips you can find. Even if you have all the best products that make traveling with kids easier, and even if you survive the plane ride or car ride, cranky kids with disrupted sleep schedules at your destination can ruin any trip.
What exactly is jet lag? Even the dictionary definition is a bit vague: Merriam Webster defines jet lag as “a condition characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (such as fatigue and irritability), which occurs after a long flight across various time zones and is probably the result of disruption of circadian rhythms. in the human body.” In both children and adults, it can manifest as not sleeping when you want to and feeling exhausted when you want to be awake. While there’s no perfect solution to completely eliminate jet lag, these tips can help you keep it to a minimum so you can enjoy your trip that much more.
Tips on Jet Lag for Babies
If your baby is less than 2 months old, she may not yet have a very defined sleep schedule or a strong sense of days and nights. While traveling with such a tiny little one can bring its own challenges, she may not have to worry about jet lag just yet. But with an older baby, often when she’s just getting her on a decent sleep schedule, it can be hard to figure out the right way to travel without everything going haywire.
Alexis Dubief, a sleep consultant and author of the book Precious Little Sleep, notes that if you don’t travel to too many time zones, you may want to keep a baby on your “home” schedule. “For example, if bedtime—at home—is 7 p.m. That might be a lazy afternoon, but a very early morning since they’re likely to wake up at 4am if they normally wake up at 6am. opt out if you’re not far from home and just move on.
If you are traveling further afield, or just want to have a more typical schedule at your destination, you should plan a shift and know that it won’t happen all at once. “A study of adults suggests that bodies move one hour per day, so it would take three days to fully switch to a three-hour time zone change, but experience suggests that babies adapt functionally faster,” explains Dubief. . She should expect bedtime to adjust to about an hour to an hour and a half per day. She suggests that parents “keep an eye on total sleep and wake windows and gauge how quickly your baby is switching to local time. She expects bedtime to move between one and one and a half hours a day.”
If you’re traveling to more than 6 time zones, the transition to full local time won’t be quick, but Dbief still has some tips to help you:
Manage exposure to light. If it’s midnight (local) and you’re trying to help your child’s body switch to local time, keep the lights extremely low even if he’s awake. No bright lights or screens. When it’s daylight (local) and you’re trying to help your child’s body change, outside sunlight is your friend. Get out as much as is reasonable. If you can’t go outside or it’s cloudy, keep indoors as bright as possible. Do not let your child sleep more than usual at home (this includes nights and naps) If you are trying to turn your clock forward, use bright light exposure first thing in the morning after they wake up and keep things dark and dim about an hour or two before bedtime. exposure to bright light at night.narvikk/E+/Getty Images
Jet Lag Tips for Toddlers and Kids
Parents who have taken trips to faraway destinations with young children (and lived to tell about it) tend to have strong memories of what worked and what didn’t to make their trip a success.
Have a plan for your arrival. Emily Wortman-Wunder, whose two children are now grown, recalled “looking in a daze for a public park and sitting blinking on a bench” while her children ran around. She tells Romper that she always made it a priority to get out on the playground and get her children outside and exercise to help them transition and sleep at night. Alternatively, she can plan to stay at her hotel. Katie Garner recalls that when traveling with three children ages 5 to 10 who hadn’t slept all night, the ability to check in immediately and take a three-hour nap at their hotel was worth “any amount of money in the world.” . .” Ask your pediatrician about melatonin. Some parents suggested that melatonin has helped speed up their little one’s adjustment to local time. Although studies suggest that melatonin may reduce the experience of jet lag, you want to talk to your pediatrician about using melatonin for your young child. Embrace suffering. Several parents suggested that part of surviving the experience is simply expecting the adjustment to be difficult and preparing for it. Kathryn Butler, whose three children are now 5, 3 and 1, has traveled with them twice between the United States and Italy. His advice from her? “With children you just have to put up with it. Even if it means making breakfast at 2:45 am,” she tells Romper.
Jet lag tips for adults
In some ways, adults are just taller kids, and when it comes to overcoming jet lag, that’s true too. Much of the same advice that applies to children applies to adults. Sometimes it can be easier to take care of our children than ourselves, but whether you’re traveling solo or with the whole family in tow, these tips can help you get the rest you need. Seasoned travelers offer some tips:
Prepare in advance. “If you are traveling east or back east, go to bed as early as you can and get up as early as you can, for a few days before you leave and the adjustment will be much easier,” suggests Anna Maltby. , which made regular trips between the east and west coasts. If you’re traveling east, you’ll want to go to bed earlier a few nights before you leave, and if you’re traveling west, you’ll want to stay up later. Prioritize sleep over tourism. “Sleep when you arrive and stay asleep/resting until around your normal wake up time. It may seem like a waste of time, but it’s not. If you start a trip fully rested on day two, you’ll have the energy to see and do a thousand times more than if you were jetlagged for the entire trip,” says Lauren Jonik, who has traveled to Europe several times. Take care much more. “Since jet lag affects the immune system, I pamper myself with probiotics, add electrolytes to my water, drink fresh juice/eat fresh produce as soon as I arrive. We also sleep with the hotel curtains open so that the natural light helps us wake up,” suggests Maggie Downs, who works as an independent traveler and spent a year backpacking the world. Expose yourself to light soon after waking up in the morning. This may be sunlight, but if it’s not sunny where you are, even artificial light can help.Do exercise. This is particularly helpful in the afternoon, when you might be tempted to hit the sheets, which can ruin your night’s sleep.
With a little preparation and some flexibility, we hope you and your family can put jet lag behind you and enjoy your trip.
Alexis Dubief, author of Precious Little Sleep