The idea of a holiday is great in theory, but most parents will know that in reality it can be (almost) more trouble than it’s worth! Between packing (and unpacking), the effort involved in getting somewhere and then settling the kids into a new environment, it’s no surprise that some of us come back from a trip more tired than when we left! Well, there’s one thing that might help- doing everything you can to ensure your kids don’t struggle with jetlag.
When your children are young, road trips can be easy (ish!) – pack the bags, strap in the kids, take a bunch of snacks and off you go. And when they’re older, you all might enjoy the adventure of traveling to a new place together on a plane. But when the journey’s over and you arrive at your destination (often hungry, tired, or both!) you might find the family battling jetlag, over-tiredness or a bad case of over-stimulation.
About our sleep patterns
Our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythm”, driven by the rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake. The feeling of jetlag is caused by an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” which happens when we travel to different time zones. Our circadian rhythms can be slow to adjust to new waking and sleeping times, and remain on their original biological schedule for several days and so it results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when in fact it’s actually the middle of the afternoon.
Tips to reduce the effects of jetlag when traveling with kids:
Babies or toddlers:
- Starting a trip around their naptime can work well even though their napping during transit may not be as sound
- It’s always a good idea to check for a clean nappy and if your child has had a recent feed. This should better your chances of a longer sleep.
- Babies may benefit from a lie on a blanket to stretch and kick about before bed
Preschoolers and school-age children:
- Starting a trip after your child has had some time to play outside can help your child settle down when you begin the trip
- Make sure your kids go to the loo before you head off so their sleep won’t be interrupted by a call of nature!
- Pack some nutritious snacks for the journey
- If it has been a long day travelling, allowing for some physical activity an hour or so before bedtime which may help settle them down
Helping kids sleep in unfamiliar places:
It’s important to consider the new environment which children will be sleeping in.
- Stick to your normal bedtime routines like brushing teeth, story time, cuddles and saying good night
- Pack your child’s favourite comforter or toy
- Dress your child in pyjamas that they’re used to
- Keep the bathroom light or a low light on so that your child can see should they wake up at night
- Make sure your child knows that you’re nearby, show them where you’re sleeping before be
- If your child sleeps in a cot at home, check out the place to see I they provide portacots when you’re away
We all need a break and even getting out of our comfort zone can be a good change for us all, albeit a little challenging along the way! And as the saying goes, you never know until you go!