Kids Sleep And Time Zones

time zones

This blog is the next in the minim series on traveling with babies and children, we’re focusing on time zones and the tips for getting through the change of time zones, on the way there, when you come back, how you can manage them whilst you’re away.

The number one tip I want to give you about time zones when it comes to traveling with little ones is consider the travel day, first of all, as an opportunity to transition. So whether you are taking a night flight or you are driving all day long, that day is going to be a little out of routine. It’s going to be a little different to the norm. Naps may or may not happen at the same time as they normally would. And the bedtime might shift. It’s just an odd day, right? It’s not going to be the same as normal. So use that as an opportunity. If you are traveling to a different time zone, use that as an opportunity to get adjusted. And it’s just almost like it’s a blank canvas then.

The second thing I want to share with you is when you arrive. When you arrive get onto local time. I don’t care if it’s one hour difference or five hours difference. Get onto local time straight away. And that means start getting your body into the rhythm of the day where you are. So your mealtime’s full at that time in the new time zone, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Your bedtime is at the time on the new time zone straight away. None of this, “Oh, wow. I know it’s this time, but for me, body clock feels like this time,” or you’re thinking about your child where they must feel like it’s this time. Don’t think like that. That’s psychologically going to hinder the adjustment.

This goes as much for adults as it does for children. But with children, you need to use the subliminal messages of the environment and the routine to help their body clock to shift into gear into the new time zone. It may not be perfect, but it will certainly help. So mealtimes, bedtime routine, the light itself, the sun rising and setting, are all also going to aid the signals to the body clock to go, “Oh, okay, hold on. Yes, it does feel like more like lunchtime now, actually.” And that will help.

The third thing to understand with this is actually about the return, when you come back home. So when you get home, you’ve got the same thing. You need to switch back to local time straight away. No like, “Oh yeah, but I feel like it’s tea time and it’s actually only just the morning.” Yep, sure. You might feel that way. But have breakfast if it’s the morning. Have lunch in the middle of the day. Go to bed at the right time. You may have to do a little manipulation with little ones with naps. You might want to go, “Okay. Do you know what? We are going to skip a nap today because we need to get the bedtime back on track.” Or you might say, “Oh, we need to add in a nap today so that I can keep my child in a good place and get bedtime at the right time at home.”

Whatever you need to do, especially on that first day back, whatever you need to do to get back into your local time and rhythm as soon as possible. It’s all about rhythmicity at the end of the day. And our body clocks and circadian rhythms are a natural thing. But when we shift from time zones, rather than letting nature take its course over maybe a week or more, we can actually get there quicker by helping with all these triggers and cues around us and rhythm to our day.

Hopefully this will make your time zone travel a lot quicker. It can take up to a week to overcome jet lag, especially if it’s quite a big difference. And especially when you go from west to east, it feels worse. So that’s worth knowing as well.

Take care and in my next post I am going to be talking about sleep tips for your children while you’re away. So if you’re on a vacation or a holiday and you’ve taken some time out to travel, some tips for sleeping when traveling.

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