Kids and Jet Lag – Your Sleep Issues Multiplied
Does your child yawn when tired? Do you see eye-rubbing or a tell-tale glassy-eyed stare? Do they start to droop sleepily and cuddle in with their head on your shoulder when they need a rest, perhaps whimpering softly or making do with a song and a story until you can get them properly settled? Do they then settle?
Our youngest does that, and I feel pretty game to take her anywhere in the world, time zones be damned. When our eldest was younger, however, I spent many hours – over a period of months – scouring parenting books and websites, memorising baby sleep signs, and scrutinising every detail of his behaviour in the hopes of catching some early hint that he was starting to wear out – but to no avail. He would always go straight from “totally engaged” to “screaming meltdown” with nary a pause between. At first I thought it was just my inexperience (or inattention), but eventually everyone who knew him concluded he was just like that and I was forced to choose between ditching my crunchy-scrunchy baby-led ways and utilising the help of a (loose) routine, or putting up with several-hour-long stretches of screeching and wailing every day. I found this choice very difficult.
With this in mind, and the fact that I Do Not Do Well when jetlagged myself, we have preferred to avoid the barely-recoverable disaster that travelling more than two or three hours out of our home time zone with a “spirited” youngster can be. Or rather, given the smorgasbord of travel destinations within plus-or-minus three hours of the places we’ve lived, I guess you could say my strategy for dealing with jet lag has been to relocate semi-permanently to a base camp within a skip and a jump of where I’d like to travel, and having a spirited youngster has only confirmed that this is a strategy with many merits.
Honestly, two or three hours east-west was already pretty bad for us. Adding a couple of hours’ day length by travelling north-south nearly killed us on several occasions (one reason we prefer to follow the winter on our holidays).
Sometimes, however, my Total Relocation Solution fails in practicality. Every so often something tempts me to take everyone to the flip side of the Earth and come home again after a mere couple of weeks, and now that P has reached the stage where he will grudgingly admit to needing sleep every so often and hold it together a bit even when he is slightly tired, I’ve been thinking over how that might work.
- Almost everyone, everywhere, advises a three to five day adjustment period – except Ladan from Baby Gizmo, whose daughter took six, and Keryn at Walking On Travels, who cites a maximum adjustment period of fourteen days – depending on whether they’re flying East (longer) or West (shorter). Mini breaks are definitely off the agenda.
- Debbie at Delicious Baby feels that
breastfeeding babies acclimatise more slowly, as mum’s milk supply has to adjust to the new time zone as well, although Corinne McDermott suggests that the weak internal clocks of young babies make them more adaptable than parents or older siblings, so that might not be the worst of it anyway.
- This will shock parents everywhere but different people choose different methods. Those who prefer routines, like Nicola of Jetlag and Mayhem, will have their times down pat. Others, like Bethaney of Flashpacker Family, advocate a more relaxed approach consisting mainly of fresh air, sunshine and good old-fashioned exercise.
- Danielle of Bubs On The Move actually suggests using Jetlag to your advantage. Wonderful work if you can get it at late-closing destinations such as Disneyland, and perhaps also some siesta-taking cultures. (Or up in the arctic circle during summer, where a late-night glacier climbing expedition should do the trick nicely.)
- Of course, if you want to try something novel, you could go with with a pre-trip live-action role playing game, as per the one suggested by Charlie Stross. Remember: tying your toddler to a chair for eight hours is great parenting as long as it’s all in the name of fun and learning.
- There’s also The Parent Swap – completely splitting the party over the adjustment periods to make life more manageable.
- I had a hard time finding detailed stories – like the entertainingly illustrated one Adora from Gingerbread Mum tells us – of how the adjustment went. If you have a story to share, please put it (or a link to it) in the comments below. Update: check this story out on Around The World With Kids, and here at Dubai’s Desperate Housewife.
Updated: Just found this story on jet lag apps for all the Gina Ford types. I know the only way I’ll use a routine is by getting my phone to organise it for me, and if nothing else it might keep everyone distracted until the whole thing blows over. Still after a few reassuring stories of survival, though…
Further update: Jack and Jill See The World have a post on their jet lag woes. They do a little bit of sticking to the schedule and a little bit of rolling with it – a good mix.