Day 258: Adjusting your Baby or Toddler to Jetlag

We are back in Hong Kong now and we are exhausted.  My wife and I have both been up for more than 32 hours, and we are getting ready for bed shortly.  More important than focusing on our own jetlag is gettting the little guy over jetlag – so he will sleep all the way thru the nights and allow us to get our rest.

There are a lot of methods for how to help your little one overcome jetlag for a long-haul flight.  Many people take it 1 day at a time, and say the old expression, “1 day for every time zone.”  But to be honest, that is not working for us, we don’t have a week (or want to waste a week) to get into the swing of things.  So what we do for the little guy is the same thing we do for ourselves as very frequent international travelers.

  • Start your mindset being in the new time zone as soon as you can on the plane.  Usually for me it is about 1/2 way through the flight, during that weird in-between period where the lights are off and everyone is sleeping, even if it is 14:00 in your home time zone.
    • This means if it is 12:00 in your departure country and 19:00 in your landing country, you should be thinking of that “lunch” as dinner, and maybe watch a movie and go to sleep after that meal as close to your normal bedtime as you can.
    • With a Baby or Toddler: This means adjusting their naps and routines, so that if you are normally putting them to bed at 20:00, you are doing so right after that lunch meal.  They might think of it as a nap, but it is important to treat it like it is the night sleep time with the same night time routines (reading a book, pajamas, etc.).
  • When you get off the plane, adjust immediately to the new time zone by following all the things you would normally do.  For us today, since we arrived to our place at around 8:00 in the morning, here’s what it meant:
    • My wife worked
    • Fed the little guy breakfast
    • Went for a walk at 9:30 and let him have his morning nap (not too long – it’s only a nap!)

And so on, through the day, following your normal meal and sleep routines.

It would be really appealing to cuddle up in the afternoon when you are exhausted and take a big family 4-hour nap, or let the little guy sleep all day.  But I can say that if you follow these steps, you will be completely over jetlag in just 2-3 days (maximum).  It’s no fun to deal with jetlag, so why make it longer than you have to?

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