Our 10 Personal Tips For How To Get Rid Of Jet Lag In Toddlers And Babies
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is the name given to the physiological effects of a large shift in time zones. Our bodies use cycles called Circadian rhythms to help us figure out when to eat and sleep, and these rhythms are disrupted when we have a big shift in routine. Moving through these time zones can induce (short term) symptoms such as tiredness, nausea, concentration problems, stomach upsets and poor memory. People can be affected in different ways and there is no quick fix, simply several self-care practises that can ease the symptoms more quickly. Many parents want to know how to get rid of jet lag in toddlers and babies, which is why we put together this guide. If you are flying with a toddler you’ll probably enjoy checking out the 10 best travel toys for toddlers on aeroplanes– every one tried and tested by us! (There’s also some amazing toddler luggage in there, including scooter suitcases!!)
You are more likely to be affected by jet lag when travelling east- the phrase “west is best, east is a beast” helps us remember when to prepare for worse symptoms. Studies have found that we are better set up to deal with longer days than shorter ones, but try telling that to parents of overtired toddlers and babies!
Thankfully, jet lag is easier to remedy the younger we are and kids are extremely adaptable- on our family gap year we took, on average, a flight every month with our 2, 5 and 7 year old (including two 14 hour flights) and we learned pretty fast how to alleviate jet lag symptoms! Here are our top tips on how to get rid of jet lag in toddlers and babies.
How To Get Rid Of Jet Lag In Toddlers & Babies: Our 10 Best Tips
Before You Fly
Before you head to destination, try and gently nudge your toddler towards the sleep routine they will be in there. Whether this means letting them sleep in during the morning or staying up longer at night, every movement towards your new routine will help them ‘click in’ more easily. That said, ensure that your toddler isn’t absolutely shattered when it’s time to head to the airport- dealing with check-in and sprawling little ones is not ideal!
If possible, try to arrive at your destination in the daytime. The natural light will encourage little ones to stay awake until sleep time, and they’ll be more inclined to exercise and enjoy the sunlight, both of which help with mood and resetting natural rhythms.
During The Flight
Encourage them to drink plenty during the flight. Dehydration worsens jet lag so whether you let them have squash if they usually have water, or just keep refilling their drinks bottles, encourage them to drink up. If you’re breastfeeding this is a great way to comfort your baby or toddler as well as getting them some nutrients and hydration. Get ready for a fair few trips to the aeroplane toilets!
Set your watch to the time of your destination– this helps you to keep an eye on when your baby or toddler is sleeping according to your new time zone, and also helps you get psychologically adjusted. If you’re travelling with another adult try and take it in turns to sleep so that you both get some rest time in case of impromptu midnight parties thanks to toddler jet lag!
At Your Destination
Clear your diary for 3 days after you travel. Whether you’ll be arriving at a fun-filled holiday resort or a family event or getting back home after a trip, nothing is going to be enjoyable if you have to deal with tired toddler meltdowns or fussy babies. Being able to have a free few days to adjust to normal sleep patterns and to be there for tiredness-induced meltdowns makes getting rid of jet lag in toddlers and babies way easier.
Minimise external stimulants such as excess sugar (or caffeine naturally found in chocolate). Blood sugar levels that are quickly raised and lowered can contribute to the nauseous feeling that can be experienced during jet lag, so as much as possible stick to whole, vitamin-rich foods to help their bodies and brains recover. Constipation or diarrhoea can be symptoms of jet lag in toddlers and babies so offering them their fave veggies and wholegrains can help to settle their tummies after switching time zones. This is easier said than done; our three year old ate one too many Pringles on our 14 hour flight from Singapore to the UK, and promptly threw up the lot as soon as we were in the car! If you’re breastfeeding your baby or toddler try to avoid caffeine, but this will take the willpower of an elephant. I breastfeed our three year but gave in to a can (ok, two) on our 14 hour flight. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, people.
Place a blue light filter on any screens that your toddler is looking at. Blue light from digital devices is what affects our natural levels of melatonin (also known as the ‘sleep hormone’) and can keep us awake at night- this is why it’s sensible to have some screen-free time before bed, but a blue light filter will also help- your eyes will quickly get used to the adjusted brightness. Blue light filter apps are freely available on both Android devices and iPhones/iPads.
Keep things as similar as possible and avoid big changes in routine when you land. If you had a routine before your long flight, try and stick to it as much as possible so that you can get rid of jet lag in your toddler or baby without exacerbating the emotional symptoms. If you are used to going to the park or beach or having time on a playmate after breakfast, try and keep this going as best you can when you get back to help your toddler ease into the new normal.
Help your toddler to exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones that counteract the lethargy of jet lag in little ones. A trip to the park or a quick outing with the scooter can help to blow away the cobwebs and take toddlers’ minds off feeling not-quite-right. If you’re dealing with jet lag in a baby, let them have plenty of stretching and rolling time.
Get some sunshine. In the UK this is easier said than done, but like exercise, sunlight can help to promote good mood as well as rebalancing the sleep-wake cycle in little ones (and big ones!) If possible, go feed the ducks, grab some wellies for a puddle-splashing walk or enjoy an hour in the local park to get that Vitamin D.
How To Get Rid Of Jet Lag In Toddlers & Babies: Summary
Although figuring out how to get rid of jet lag in toddlers and babies might be daunting, there are many things that we as parents can do to make it easier for our little ones and ourselves. Ensuring that our little ones are happy and entertained on the plane and well hydrated and nourished; nudging them gently towards their new sleep routine and getting plenty of sunshine and exercise, as well as filtering blue light from digital devices will all help settle your child into the new time zone. We also find that positive communication really helps us to keep our cool and helps our kids feel chilled too; for positive communication tips for parents check out my positive parenting section!
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