Vacation "sleep": How to maximize shut eye while on the move

Scientifically-based Actionable Advice
By: 
Dr. Craig Canapari, MD
Contributing writer for Baby Sleep News

I’m on vacation RIGHT NOW. I hope you are, or that you will be soon. Dealing with jet lag, figuring out sleeping arrangements, and working around everyone’s schedule can be challenging. I thought that I would share my best sleep travel tips for kids and parents to get more sleep while traveling. 

Right now I’m about 50 yards from the beach on Long Island, and enjoying some time quiet time (e.g. watching the Yankees and listening to the kids play).

Vacation used to be a really challenging time with our boys. Witness (below) the usual view from the foot of my bed at approximately sunrise all week-long when my younger son– an inveterate early riser— was in our room. I also remember when my older son was a baby, and the first night when we travelled ANYWHERE would result in about an hour and a half of crying before he fell asleep.

 

"Time to get up Mom and Dad"It has gotten better over time, more likely due to the fact that they have gotten older. Perhaps I’ve gotten a bit wiser as well. Here are a few I’ve picked up a few things

  • Respect the routine: When we go on vacation we try really hard to maintain our kids’ sleep times. This was harder when they used to nap. Of course, we bend the rules for special occasions like fireworks. (I wish we had seen the display in San Diego where all the fireworks went off at once; all the excitement and home early for bedtime.) Also, some “sneaky sleep” may be unavoidable as the kids will be pretty tuckered out.
  • Recognize that other families have different rules; be flexible: My kids always point out to me when other families we are with have different rules (usually if the kids have more iPad time than mine). This can be pretty challenging when some kids go to bed later or get up earlier than your kids. Make sure your kids know that their friends or cousins might have different rules, and that is OK.
  • Go to bed early:  We were vacationing with cousins, and all the kids got up earlier than normal. If you want to catch up on your sleep, your best chance is by going to bed earlier than normal.
  • Make the room dark: Don’t hesitate to hang towels over the windows if you need to– that can make a huge difference in when your child gets up.
  • Get creative with the sleeping arrangements: We were staying with several cousins at a vacation home. Our older son shared a “room” (which was a walk in closet) with his 6 year cousin. That way they did not have to get up with their younger siblings (and tired parents) the next day. Of course, this is not perfect; my niece got up at 5:15 AM on the first day and awoken our son as well. Sharing rooms can be a bit tricky for children used to having their own room; older children should be instructed to let others sleep if they wake up early. They may also be a bit chatty at bedtime, but that is part of the fun.
  • Jet lag can be tricky: Jet lag occurs when traveling across time zones east or west, when your body clock is out of phase from the clock time.  You can prepare a bit by putting your kids to bed later for a few days before traveling west or getting them up a bit earlier before traveling east. The main consequence can be a really early bedtime and wake time (when traveling west) or vice versa when traveling east. Children tend to adapt quickly if they have natural light exposure. Avoid “sneaky sleep” if possible and try to get to the “correct” (as per the clock) bedtime as soon as possible. For short trips, an alternative may be keeping your home clock schedule. For more on this topic there are some good articles here and here.
  • Be realistic: Remember long relaxing reading sessions by the pool and sleeping on the beach? Yeah, me neither.
  • Have fun: Although vacation with little ones may not exactly be restful, we had a ton of fun digging holes in the sand, looking at snails, riding bikes, and having lots of family meals.
  • Be in the moment:  Put your phone down and don’t worry about taking pictures or keeping up with Twitter. Kids can benefit from “doing nothing” and so can you. Above all, don’t  ruin your own vacation.

If you want more information, I also like this post from Modern Moms.

Any crazy vacation sleeping stories out there? Please share over at Dr. Canapari's original post

Dr. Canapari is a pediatric lung and sleep doctor at Yale School of Medicine. For more evidence-based advice for sleep in kids and parents, head over to Dr. Canapari's website.