With the holiday season quickly approaching, many parents are wondering how to fit their holiday travel plans around their child’s sleep schedule. In my work with children and families as a certified sleep consultant, I’ve learned how to help families get through the holidays. Here are 6 tips to help your children sleep well while traveling this holiday season.
1. Establish healthy sleep habits before you leave
A well-rested child will adapt to changes in their routine and schedule better than an overtired child, so make sure they are caught up on sleep before you go. It’s also important to have a consistent sleep routine in place so that you can re-create their nap and bedtime routine when traveling. This will be comforting to your child as they will recognize the sleep cues even in a strange place.
2. Do some planning ahead of time
If you don’t normally share a room with your child, try not to share a room while you are traveling. Book a hotel suite instead of a single room, hang a sheet as a room divider, or use a walk-in closet as a temporary nursery. If you child is unable to see you, it will make the transition easier and they won’t be looking for middle of the night stimulation. If you plan on using a travel crib or playpen over the holidays, allow your child to practice sleeping in it before you go.
3. Bring along their sleep environment and favorite items
Bring your child’s sheets, blankets and sleep sack with you if possible. Their familiar smell and feel will help calm your child in a strange environment. If your child is used to falling asleep to white noise, bring that along as well to help soothe them and drown out any unfamiliar noises. Also don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite lovey, pacifier or stuffed toy as these items are invaluable when traveling away from home.
4. Preserve sleep schedules as much as possible
Where possible, make your travel and holiday plans around your child’s normal sleep schedule. Make it possible for your child to nap when they usually nap, and maintain your usual nap time and bedtime routine. If you follow your usual schedule and routine, your children are less likely to lose sleep and become cranky and overtired.
5. Help them adjust to changing time zones
If you are traveling to a different time zone for more than a few days, get your child’s schedule on the new time as quickly as possible. Have your child go to bed at their usual bedtime and be sure to wake up your child in the morning when they would normally wake up. It also helps to expose your children to plenty of natural light to reset their internal clock.
6. Have a plan of action for your return home
If there were many changes to your child’s sleep environment, schedule and sleep habits while away, your child’s sleep may be a little “off” upon your return home. Have a plan to get your child back on their usual schedule and routine the minute you walk through your front door. If your child missed some sleep over the holidays, plan for an earlier bedtime to help them catch up on sleep. The sooner you get them well-rested and back to their regular routine, the sooner your child will adjust to being back home.
Guest blog by Jenn Kelner from BabyZzz
Jenn Kelner is a Family Sleep Institute Certified Child Sleep Consultant and owner of BabyZzz. She helps tired families with infants, babies and toddlers become well rested families through customized sleep solutions and support. She offers various services including home, phone/Skype and email consultations.
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