One of the most frequent questions I get on my wrap up call with my clients is “how do we keep our baby on schedule if we were to travel abroad, in a different country or time zone?”
My answer: In all honesty you can expect your little ones’ sleep to be a bit wonky before their little bodies adjust to that of the new time zone. But, to help set your little one up for success, here are some of my best recommendations for when traveling abroad with your little one and to help your little one get one schedule in a different time zone.
When traveling abroad it is recommended that you travel during bedtime, especially if you are taking a really long flight. Bring along as many nighttime sleep cues as possible to help your baby get some sleep on the plane. The sleep sack, portable sound machine, bedtime books, lovey – most of the bedtime routine items (cues) that your baby normally associated with the time for sleep even in an unfamiliar place.
If you’re traveling for more than just a few days abroad, you will want to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible. Naturally our bodies have an inherent ability to adapt to new time zones based on light/dark cycles, so get outside as much as you can and use sunlight to your advantage.
As much as we don’t want any shred of sunlight getting into the room while your little one is trying to sleep, we do want to expose them to it fully when they are awake. Getting a significant amount of sunlight during the day fires up melatonin production and will help her circadian rhythm more quickly adjust to local time. Getting outdoors and into the sunlight during the day will work wonders in helping your child (and you!) sleep well overnight. Start by getting outside first thing in the morning on your first morning there and then make sure you have opportunities for sun exposure throughout the rest of the day too.
On the flip side, you’ll want to block out any external light sources for sleep. To make bedtime a bit easier, you can also dim any internal lights at least two hours prior to bedtime.
When deciding how to darken your child’s sleep environment while on vacation, there are a few options:
Even in the best-case scenario, your little one is still going to be beat after a full day of travel. An extra nap (even one that’s just 25 minutes) can really help counteract the overtiredness that comes after a long flight. Just be conscious of leaving enough time between when the nap and bedtime for sleep pressure to rise again.
As you know, babies/toddlers thrive on routine and consistency. Sticking to your usual bedtime routine will not only help the baby to stay asleep overnight, but it will help them feel secure in her new environment.
Travel – especially international travel – is going to require a great deal of patience and a lot of consistency to minimize the effects on your baby but I can assure you that these tips outlined above will help make the transition easier.