How to Help Jet Lag in Children

When we travel long distances, the time changes occur faster than our body clocks can adjust. Even as an adult, jet lag isn’t easy to deal with. It can get even harder when you travel with young children who are still adjusting to a routine at home. The time shift can result in baby fighting sleep, preventing them from settling into the new time zone. 

Jet Lag in Babies Six Months and Under

Infants up to six months of age may adjust better to a shift in time zones than older children, especially if your time zone shifts by just an hour or two. Even larger time shifts are easier to cope with as they nap so much during the day.  

Symptoms of Jet Lag in Older Babies

Children experience jet lag in similar ways to adults. They may get cranky because they are unable to sleep, or feel wide awake in the middle of the night. Naturally they will be tired as their bodies adjust to the new circadian rhythm. However, there are many things you can do to help baby get used to a routine despite the jet lag.

Start Your Prep Before Your Trip

While you may not be able to change routines to match a ten hour time difference, every little bit of prep you do can help. Start by adjusting bedtime a little. Make it earlier or later by a few minutes at a time depending on the direction you’re travelling in. If you manage to change bedtime by an hour by the time you leave, it’s a big win. Naturally, this means waking up an hour earlier or later too. 

Flight Timings Matter

If you’re flying a long-haul flight, try booking an overnight flight so you reach your destination in the morning. It can help you and the little one to get used to the new time zone faster. Allow baby to sleep as much as possible on the flight. 

If you land in the afternoon or evening, keep your child as entertained as possible on the flight over with short naps to prevent overtiredness. Get in some of the afternoon and evening sunlight  once you land to help the body’s circadian rhythm adjust better. 

If you’re travelling long distances, consider having a stop over midway for a night or two. Not being cooped up on the plane for hours on end is kinder on the kids too. 

The Right Sleep Environment

Create a sleep environment as close to the one at home as possible on the flight. This can include putting them in their favourite PJs, switching on a white noise or pink noise machine, putting up the shade on the bassinet to minimise distractions or getting a bed box for the plane. The better they sleep on the plane, the easier it’ll be when you land.

Recreating a sleep environment as close to home once you reach your destination will help your baby adjust to a sleep schedule better too. 

Once You’re There

Stick to regular routines as you would do at home. For example, if snack time is at 11 am at home, then have snack time at 11 am local time wherever you are. If you find baby waking up multiple times at night, keep the lights dimmed to keep stimulation low. Give her a light, non-sugary snack if baby is hungry with the lights kept low and spend some quiet time together with a favourite bedtime storybook to keep the environment as close to bedtime as possible.

Try and wake up as close to your normal time as possible, but it’s ok to sleep in an hour or two if you’ve had a particularly hard night.

Leaving the window shades open can also help you and baby wake with natural light and adjust faster.

Nap Times

Getting plenty of sunlight can help your baby’s natural circadian rhythm get back to normal. Try to schedule nap times as close to normal as possible, but don’t forget to set the alarm or your siesta might turn into an eight-hour snooze. If you find your baby waking up too early in the morning, push nap times to later in the day by keeping her entertained.

The good news is that with the right amount of prep and routines, jet lag doesn’t last more than a few days. 

If you’re worried about how your baby will cope with the time differences on your upcoming trip and need help with a customized plan, then call me at 416-556-3217 or book your complimentary enlightenment call now.