Are you on vacation and worried about your child’s sleep?
It’s perfectly normal, but don’t let worrying about your sleep spoil the anticipation or the holiday itself, it will all be worth it even if the sleep goes a little off track.
Here are my tips on sleep when traveling:
Sleep prior to the trip
If the child generally sleeps well at home, it is more likely to sleep well on the trip, and even if the sleep is a little disturbed during the trip, it is likely that the child will go back to sleeping well soon after returning home. If the child has just started to sleep well after sleep-support, it is a good idea to wait 2-3 weeks before traveling so that these new skills have time to set in, or wait starting sleep-support until you get home.
It is also good to pay attention to a good night’s sleep before the trip, so that the trip will be easier with a well-rested child. There is often much to do before a trip, so the daily routine can get confused, but try to maintain a good daily routine these last few days before departure.
Pack the sleeping environment
Take everything with you that the child is used to sleeping with and try to make the sleeping environment as similar as it is at home.
- The same equipment as the child is used to: sheet, (even a used one so that the smell is familiar), sleeping bag, favorite teddy bear, if the child uses such.
- Plenty of pacifiers if the child uses a pacifier.
- White noise device if the child uses one.
- Books or anything else you need for your bedtime routine.
Try to keep the bedtime routine as similar as to what the child is used to at home, it lets the child know that it is going to sleep, so it starts preparing for it.
If the child is used to sleeping in its own room at home, try to have that as well while traveling. If that’s not a possibility then try having the child’s bed as far away from yours as you can, and if you can create a sleeping space that is a good option.
Naps in a new environment
It can be difficult for children to fall asleep in the middle of the day in a new environment, the stimulus is often too high and everything in the environment is new. Put at least one nap as a priority, where there’s a calming routine before the nap and a good sleeping environment so that the child is more likely to have a good nap. The rest of the day will be worth it, because all the fun you have planned for the day might not be so much fun with an exhausted child.
If the child does not manage to take at least one good nap during the day you can make up for it by going to bed 30-60 minutes earlier that night.
What about the time difference and getting into a routine in a new time zone?
If the time difference is not that different, I recommend keeping the child in the home-country’s time zone if possible. It makes everything simpler and can be very convenient, e.g. if the holiday is in Spain where there is a 2 hour time difference, the child would be in a 9-9 routine. It gives you a chance to have a late dinner and to sleep a little longer in the morning.
If you are traveling West and your clock moves forward, the time is e.g. 3 a.m. in the new country while it’s 7 a.m. at home and 3 a.m. at bedtime. Then try to fit in a short afternoon nap to bridge the gap until bedtime in the new country. If the time difference is not that big and you don’t expect to be able to fit in an afternoon nap, try moving the bedtime a little closer to the new bedtime, but not so that the child becomes exhausted.
If the child wakes up early in the new country, still try to start the day at a normal time, you keep everything quiet and dark before 6:30 am. It helps the body clock reset itself. Then spend time outside in the light during the day and allow the child to move. You may need to stretch out the waking hours a bit during the day to begin with to help the child adjust to the new time zone, but we want to make sure the child doesn’t get exhausted. We are only talking about 5-15 minutes. Try to avoid very long naps during the day (being over 2 hours) so that the child is sure to get a good night’s sleep.
What if everything goes wrong?
If everything goes wrong, check out the tips above and see if there’s anything you can do to get to a better place.
Remember that this is only temporary and when you get back home you can work on getting better sleep again. If your child was used to sleeping well, it has not lost the ability to sleep well, believe me. It’s quite normal that sleep gets a little messed up while traveling. Try to enjoy the holidays and being with family and friends, relax and make good memories. It will all be worth it.
When you get home
It may take a few days to get back into a good routine after returning home. If you have access to a course, go back over it, look at the plan you created, and follow it with determination. It should only take 3-5 days for the sleep to become good again.
If you want to help your child learn to sleep well or get back into a routine after the holidays, my online courses can help you:
Sleep Tight: 3-12 months
Sleep Tight: 12-24 months