August is a busy month for family summer vacations, and vacations are a wonderful time for families to experience new adventures and build precious memories. Whether you are visiting family from out of state, or touring a foreign country, taking your child out of their natural surroundings can create sleep difficulties.
Ease into the time change
Switching over to a new time zone can be very difficult for both child and family. I always suggest to my parents to start changing the time gradually, while they are still at home. Progressively pushing sleep time slightly ahead or behind, will make the transition much less abrupt once you arrive.
If you are only away for two or three days, I recommend sticking with your home time zone. Otherwise, by the time your child adjusts to the new time, you will be working to correct them back. Do your best to keep nap times on schedule so your child is not overtired, or too alert for bed. Use blinds to create a dark room at your child’s bedtime to help induce relaxation, and promote the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Don’t skip nap time
Do your best to stick to your nap time schedule when you are on vacation. If you are able, I suggest to my parents to try and fit travel in when it suits the child’s nap schedule. This will prevent the child from missing a nap and becoming overtired, making time changes even more difficult. Once at your destination, do your best to make your daily itinerary nap friendly. It can be tempting to try and get as much touring as possible in during the day, but an overtired child will not be much fun in a museum or restaurant.
Some kids may have a difficult time settling down if they are not in their own bed. Give yourself and your child extra time for a bedtime soothing routine. This will help them relax and fall asleep much easier.
Your little one doesn’t want to fall asleep for fear of missing out on the fun
Once your child reaches toddler age they may become aware that their bedtime does not mean everyone else is going to sleep. If you are vacationing with family who have older children, your child may resist bedtime for fear of missing out on fun to be had with their cousins. Help your child ease into sleep by taking your time with your bedtime routine. Read them a story and let them know that everyone else will be going to bed soon. And don’t be shy about asking people to keep the noise down, so as not to wake your child. This is also a perfect time to have your white noise machine or fan. This will help buffer the noise in and outside of the house.
Scent is important to relaxation
According to the National Sleep Foundation, https://sleep.org/articles/scents-for-relaxation/ “there is some evidence that certain smells may have an effect on your sleep. For example, lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state. Another study of infants found that they cried less and slept more deeply after a bath with lavender scented oils.”
Your child’s sense of smell can also be a very important factor in their ability to feel comfortable at bedtime. If your child’s room or bed does not smell like home it could potentially create anxiety, causing it difficult to settle into sleep. Bring along a well-worn pair of pajamas, a stuffed animal, or even their bedding- anything that smells like home. This may help soothe feelings of home sickness that could create issues at bedtime.
Bring a night light
Sometimes a night light can help a child feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar room. Even if your child is no longer afraid of the dark, a dark, unknown room can be scary to most. Think about bringing a night light along with you to help navigate a strange room.
I tell my parents not to be too concerned if their child experiences some change to their sleep routine during a vacation. It can sometimes be unavoidable to get the same quality of sleep that you get at home, on days you are traveling. However, try not to let your little one get too far off track. An overtired child can be cranky, and have more difficulty falling asleep at night.
Was this information helpful? Contact me and let me know what issues your child is experiencing with their sleep this summer.
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland.