Babies and toddlers can experience jet lag just like adults. Changing time zones requires the body to readjust to sleeping, waking, and eating patterns, which can result in a cranky child.
You can take steps a few weeks before traveling to minimize the effects of jet lag. Long before you go to the airport, begin adjusting your child’s schedule to match the one at your destination, including bedtime. This will help minimize the stress during the trip. Once you’ve arrived, plan outdoor activities to help your child adjust to the time at your new location. The natural cycle of light and dark will help your child adjust to going to bed at night in the new location, even if it is still daylight at home. Also attempt to change over to the local eating and sleeping schedules right away. However, if you have an infant, you should continue to feed on demand.
Using medications to make your child sleep is not recommended. It prevents the body from adjusting naturally and can be difficult on the child. It may also have the opposite effect and actually give your child more energy. Keeping your child hydrated will also help with the adjustment to the new time zone.
The natural cycle of light and dark will help your child adjust to going to bed at night in the new location, even if it is still daylight at home.
At bedtime, make sure there are no artificial lights in the room such as from TVs or computers. Lights interfere with the production of melatonin in the brain, which will make it difficult for your child to fall asleep. Melatonin is the “sleep hormone” that is released in response to darkness.
Above all, be patient. Your child doesn’t understand what jet lag is or why it occurs, so your help getting adjusted will go a long way toward a happy trip.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, December 2018
- Babies and toddlers are affected by jet lag just like adults.
- To minimize jet lag, start adjusting your baby’s schedule to the destination schedule weeks before you travel.
- Try to keep your baby awake during daylight hours once you arrive.
- Do not use medications to put your baby or infant to sleep if possible. Instead encourage natural acclimatization.