Jet Lag and Babies: How to Cope During and Post Vacation

By Yvonne Chan

April 22, 2019

Traveling across the world with babies can actually be fun and enjoyable. Babies are so portable and can go anywhere in a carrier, and people everywhere love babies! The best part is, babies under 2 years old fly free! You will be creating lots of cherished family memories and experiencing another culture in a way like never before.

 

Photo: Copenhagen, Denmark

We have traveled to half a dozen places with a different time zone when our babies were under two years old: Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, and California! One of the biggest challenges of travelling is our experience with jet lag!

Photo: Pearson International Airport

What is jet lag?

Jet lag causes a temporary problem with sleep and occurs when a person travels across multiple time zones in a short period of time. When traveling to a different time zone, our internal clock (circadian rhythm) remains in our home time zone and becomes out of sync to the new time zone. This causes us to feel tired and fatigued during the day, restless and awake at night. Jet lag impacts adults and babies the same! Here are some key tips for overcoming jet lag: This differs based on the direction you are flying in!

Flights heading East

Destination is later in the day than the origin, including Red Eye flights. (E.g. California to Toronto; Toronto to Paris). Baby will want to stay up later than what the local time says. If baby’s usual bedtime is 7pm bedtime, push bedtime back to 8pm for the first couple of nights.

Flights heading West

Destination is earlier in the day than the origin. (E.g. Paris to Toronto, Toronto to California). Baby will be ready for bedtime earlier and will also wake up earlier than what the local time says. If you are landing in the AM, go about the day like you would at home and nap baby on the go. Have an early bedtime at 7pm with baby so everyone can get a good night’s rest after a long day of travelling.

If you are landing in the afternoon or evening. Eat, get settled, and have an early bedtime at 7pm with baby. To help prevent early morning wake ups (because 7am in Toronto is 4am in California) keep the environment dark with travel blackout blinds (or even dark garbage bags and tape) throughout the night.

Photo: Le Palais Royal, Paris, France

Recovering from jet lag post vacation.

I find sometimes it is harder to recover from jet lag when we get home after a vacation because we don’t have all the busy tourist activities to fill our day. It becomes very tempting when we return home to sleep in or to take long naps during the day and we stay on the vacation time zone. My best piece of advice for recovering from jet lag post vacation is to fall back into your usual routine. It is important to be consistent and help baby sync their circadian rhythm back to the local time zone by having a 7pm bedtime, a 7am wake up to start the day, and lots of light and activities during the day.

Overarching tips and conclusion:

When on vacation, be flexible and have fun! You’re on vacation! Everybody will adjust to the new time zones eventually. The adjustment time differs for everyone. On average, it takes 2-3 days to get over jet lag. Often times I find our babies adjust quicker than we do! Travel should be fun and exciting, so make this a fun experience. When you return home, fall back into the regular routine and be consistent.

 

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