Monday 4 June 2012

Jet Lag and Kids

So, you've survived the flying part. Give yourself a (brief) pat on the back, because...

... now there's the jet lag.

Sadly, there's no way to avoid it: if you're traveling across time zones, your kids' internal clocks will be disrupted (and your own jet lag will need to take a number and get in line). But here are 5 strategies we've found to make dealing with the transition (a little) easier...

1) Try to be well-slept before you start your journey (that means you too).

2) Traveling east:
  • Aim to keep your children awake all day when you arrive. Easier said than done, obviously., but make sure you get outside (daylight helps to readjust your clocks), and get some exercise. Eat little and often and make sure tummies are as full as possible before going to bed. Everyone will probably crash earlier than normal but, as long as it's past 5pm, just go with it and sleep while you can.
  • You might all sleep through that first night but, for the rest of the week, your children (and you) will probably wake again around 9 or 10pm. And stay awake until "real" bedtimes (e.g.if your kids are usually asleep by 7pm PST, they probably won't nod off again until 3am GMT). Put them to bed at 7pm GMT regardless, following your normal routine, and get some sleep yourself. (I find that if I go to bed any later than 8ish, I can't drop off and I'm wide awake 'til the small hours. But an early night at least gives me a bit of a nap). 
  • Some people say that when you wake up, don't turn on the lights, don't get out of bed, don't eat. But in our experience, the struggle of achieving this with preschoolers is not worth the effort. Get up and have a snack, a little quiet play, stories or TV, but keep the lighting low and don't do anything too exciting. Night by night, sleep-time should creep forward by an hour (they say you need a day for every hour's time difference) until your children are back in the normal routine.
  • No matter how tempting, don't let your children (or yourself) sleep in in the morning. Pack a (really loud) alarm clock and get up as close to possible to their usual waking time. Eat a good breakfast, get outside and move around. 

3) Traveling west seems to be much easier on most people. Generally, follow the same guidelines as above: keep your children awake during the day, get them outside and moving, feed them frequently, then put them to bed as close as possible to their usual time. And, as you'll probably be up yourself, let them play quietly or watch TV when they wake up in the "morning". 

4) Remember that kids are more likely to wet the bed when they're jet lagged. So, if you don't want to revert to pull-ups, make sure you use a mattress protector or lift your child for a pee midway through their night (if you're not spark out yourself).

5) Expect a little crankiness (from everyone). No remedy for that I'm afraid: just cut yourselves a little slack, and remember that this too shall pass in a week or so (until your flight home anyway...)

Oh, and don't forget to enjoy your trip :)


  1. very brave, I just couldn't face travelling far with little ones. Just done France with the eldest 2 but long haul still a no no for me.