Traveling with kids is no easy feat. With all of the luggage and gear that's required, you often feel like you should've just stayed home. For some kids (and some adults), the hardest part of traveling can be the lack of consistency and routine. This is usually due to things like flight and travel times and dealing with accommodations that are unlike your home. And then there's the issue of jet lag. Before you jet off with your little ones in tow, you might wonder, "how does jet lag affect my baby's sleep schedule?"
According to Mayo Clinic, jet lag occurs when the natural circadian rhythms of our bodies (our sleep-wake patterns) are disrupted, typically due to airplane travel into different time zones, and is usually worse when traveling eastward. Jet lag usually presents with a variety of symptoms such as insomnia, lethargy, irritability, loss of appetite, or an upset stomach. Typically, the older a person is, the more severe the jet lag symptoms. While this may not be good news for you, it is for your little one. Because children will often experience very mild jet lag symptoms, they also recover from it much quicker than adults, as noted by Medical News Today.
A little bit of jet lag, as well as a disruption in your baby's sleep schedule, is probably inevitable, especially if you are traveling far. There are some things you can do to try to ease jet lags symptoms though. According to CNN, the best thing you can do is try to adjust your baby's schedule before you begin travel. Slowly inching your baby's bedtime to the destination bedtime can help adjust their schedule before you even take off. Even then, as CNN mentioned, it takes about 24 hours for an individual to adjust for every time zone you cross.
According to Marietta Paxton, pediatric sleep consultant with Little Dreamers, the best way to reset the internal clock is to make sure it is dark when baby should be sleeping and to expose them to a lot of sunlight when they should be awake. She tells Romper that she encourages blackout curtains when traveling, and at home, in order to help control the light that enters a room when kids should be sleeping.
Jet lag seems to be unavoidable when traveling, and traveling with kids may not necessarily equate what we once thought of as a "vacation." But, the joy of seeing your little ones exploring new places, bonding with old and new friends, and discovering the world is rarely not worth every headache (and sleepless night) that comes along with it.