Expert Opinion

Helping your child sleep while travelling

Should my childs sleep routine change while in a different time zone?

So, you’ve decided to book a holiday, but the thought of different time zones, naps, and bedtime is causing a little stress.

The key thing, if you are moving to a different time zone, is to ensure you have a consistent bedtime routine before you go – one that highlights certain familiar cues to your little one that it is time for sleep.

This might include dinner, a bath, a massage, putting on some white noise, a cuddle, etc. If they’ve been in place consistently, these cues should provide your baby with some security around their bedtime routine, regardless of time zone.

You still might see some interruption to their actual sleep – if the time difference is big, then yes, it may take a little while for their bodies to fall into place with the new time zone, but if it is only an hour or two, you really shouldn’t see that much change, and may actually choose to not make any changes to the timing of sleep, dependent on your daily activities.

What should I do to help my child sleep on an overnight journey?

Some people might say that traveling overnight is better than during the day, because young children may just sleep on the trip away. A key way to assist children’s sleep on an overnight journey is to have familiar items from home that usually tell your little one it is sleep time – their sleeping bag, some white noise, etc. I would say, however, if traveling on a plane, this can create their own white noise so bring a snuggly comforter that they are attached to. They also might need to be assisted to sleep – that might look like cuddling them, feeding them, or rocking to sleep.

Is there room to be lenient in our sleep routine while on holiday, or should we do our best to stick to our usual routine?

I actually think that this is dependent on your child and their temperament. Babies that are more sensitive to change and lack of sleep may need to stick to their ideal sleep routine – holidays are no fun with an overtired grumpy baby.

However, I think even with those babies, you can work with an 80/20 rule. 80 percent routine, 20 percent getting out and about, living your life. You can always implement an early bedtime if they haven’t slept well during the day, or if you are going out at night, let them have a quick catnap later in the afternoon.

I always suggest practicing naps in porta cots and prams at home before you go so that your baby is used to different sleep spaces.

How can I get my childs sleep back on track after coming home from a holiday?

Take a few days when you get home to assess whether your child’s sleep has been affected by the travel.

If experiencing jet lag, the key is to stick to a routine as much as possible – don’t let your little one nap too much during the day or sleep in the morning, get their naps timed appropriately, and stick to their normal nap lengths, which may mean waking them.

Ensure as much exposure to natural light as possible when they are awake, and if they do have long night wakings, keep stimulation to a minimum, so they understand that it really is nighttime.

My child gets extremely tired from our jam-packed days while holidaying, should I let them sleep in longer?

Yes, you absolutely can let them sleep longer, later, earlier, whatever they need to do to ensure you as a parent enjoy the holiday, and the child isn’t struggling to keep up and enjoy themselves too.

Being out and about, while being so physically active is going to mean they will need their sleep. Holidays are for relaxing strict routines and going with the flow, more than what you probably would at home.

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.