Friday, July 11, 2014

Jet Lag in Children

I recently received a blog comment asking for advice on handling jet lag in children. 

What a question.

Honestly, after all of our overseas traveling as a military family, I have truly decided that travel is not the enemy.


Jetlag is the enemy!

For adults, jet lag stinks, but there is nothing worse than trying to get a child to navigate significant time change. 

What has worked for us?

I am including a list below of some things that have helped us when traveling. Please feel free to leave a comment with suggestions or things that have helped you. I may amend my list with your tip!

Before I start the list, it is very important to remember that there is a big difference in how jet lag is handled when traveling EAST over traveling WEST. Normally, it is harder to go from WEST to EAST because you're not tired at your expected bedtime. It is usually easier, both for grown-ups and children to force yourself to stay up when tired then it is to force yourself to sleep when you are not tired.

In addition, here are things that we have tried successfully:

1. Changing bedtimes BEFORE the trip: This is not always easy to do, but we will often attempt to start pushing a bedtime forward and backward before we make a trip to match more with the time of where we are going. "Start resetting children's internal clocks three days prior to departure by adjusting bedtimes earlier when traveling eastward," says Lia Batkin of In the Know Experiences, an exclusive travel and lifestyle consulting agency. "Try moving your child's bedtime by 15 to 20 minutes toward the vacation time zone in the few days before your trip. Children's circadian rhythms generally catch up with them naturally after 4 days or so." 

2. Not always changing time: Only going 1 or 2 hours? Better to just stay on your normal time. Or, if you are only going to be a new time zone for a very short period of time, just stay on the time zone you are on or immediately jump to the one ahead of you.

3. Being comfortable: We have the kids bring things that "feel" like bed to them. If we hope they sleep on the plane, we bring their blankets and favorite stuffed animals on the plane. We put them in comfy clothes. We try to mimic the environment they are used to sleeping in as best we can.

4. Prepare for it take some time. We figure on the fact that it can take up to 1 day per hour of time change for a person's body to change over. We make sure we can be somewhere long enough to get over this time change and still enjoy our trip or we just don't go!

5. Skip naps. We have our kiddos actually skip naps after we arrive so that they aren't "tricked" into thinking it is bed time. We find it better during the first few days of travel if they are just crabby and collapse in exchange for waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning thinking it is time to awaken for the day!

6. Limit sleep. If a nap is required, it MUST be short when adjusting to a time zone. If we go to bed at night, we HAVE to limit how much sleep the children get. Sleeping tons of extra will actually make it take longer to adjust.

7. Consider a layover. Sometimes stopping somewhere midway for a few days can really help as it sort of a "baby step" to the bigger time change that is coming.

8. Benadryl! When our kiddos wake up at 3am in the morning (thinking it is 7am), we will use Benadryl to fake them back to sleep. We only do this for a few nights. We also do not usually Benadryl them when going to bed. Only when they are waking up at the wrong time.

Other quick tips:

  • Change your watch as soon as you get on the plane. Do things to make you feel like the time is different right away.
  • Get lots of sunlight during the time you are supposed to be awake. We especially try to do this the first day.
  • Hydrate (travel really dehydrates you).
  • Eat healthy.

Information for this article was taken from the following online article: 12 Tips for Managing Jet Lag in Children

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