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Holiday Travel Sleep Tips

April 13, 2022
Traveling to see family and friends is a big part of the holidays for many families. And just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t keep your kids on their normal sleeping schedules, although it’s definitely a challenge. Here are some tips for getting the sleep you need to enjoy your holidays.
  • If possible, schedule travel during a nap or around your child’s bedtime. Many kids will get the most sleep on a red-eye flight.
  • If traveling east, you can stay on your Western timezone. For example: if you live on the West Coast and your child normally goes to bed at 7 PM, MST, and wakes at 6 AM, MST, she’ll now go to bed at 10 PM, EST, and wake at 9 AM. EST.
    • The key to making this work is ensuring the room she sleeps in is very dark in the early morning and using white noise to drown out ambient noise.
  • For those traveling east to west, your child will likely wake early the first couple of days of your trip. To adjust, help her stretch as close as possible toward her normal put-down times for naps and bedtime without her melting down.
  • If you do want your child to adjust to the new time zone you’re in, expose her to lots of natural daylight during the day—especially between 2 PM and 3 PM if traveling west to east, and between 6 AM and 8 AM if traveling east to west.
    • This tells the brain it’s still light out during a time when it thinks it should be dark
  • To her your child relax in a new place, add an additional 10-15 minutes to your child’s wind-down routine. Going through her familiar routine will help make her sleepy even though she’s in a different environment.
  • Bring along your child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal from home. If using a crib while traveling, bring a crib sheet you haven’t washed in a few days, so it smells familiar.
  • It’s completely fine to do naps on the go in the car or stroller while traveling. If their naps are shorter than usual, make bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes so your child isn’t overtired.
  • If your child has trouble settling or wakes in the night, start with minimal assistance and increase your interactions as needed:
    • Put a hand on baby’s tummy while you shush; then pick her up if necessary, calm, and return to her crib.
If all else fails, help your child to sleep however you can—you won’t enjoy your trip while sleep-deprived. And travel isn’t something that happens all the time, so a few nights of alerted-sleep won’t undo all your hard work. Knowing how to sleep is like riding a bicycle—once your child knows how to do it, they won’t forget. Just return to good habits as soon as you get back home, allowing for a day or two to adjust if there’s been a time change. Looking for helping teaching your little ones to sleep their best? Check out Dream Lab for customized sleep plans and hands-on guidance from the world’s best sleep experts. Enjoy your holidays!

Author Bio

Channing Merrell

Hi! I'm Channing and I'm a proud member of the Owlet team!