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  • Desiree Baird

How to tackle traveling to different time zones without disrupting your little one's sleep schedule

For those of you that do not know, although I live in the Seattle area, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In just a few short weeks we are headed east to visit my family and this will be the first time that I have had to deal with naps and times zones in a LONG TIME. My twins are now 10, so I haven't had to adjust or worry about how they will sleep. The older your child gets, the easier it is to adjust. Partially because they understand we are going from one time zone to another, and also because they don't nap and can recognize when they are ready for bed.


But now…the concern is real AGAIN with my 18 month old. Just when I thought I didn’t have to think about adjusting sleep and naps ever again it comes back to haunt me. Luckily this isn’t my first rodeo, so I know how to handle travel to different time zones very well, and I thought I would share how I handle traveling with you …just in time for your holiday travels.


Let’s first talk about West to East….

So right now my 18 mo old wakes up around 7:15am, and goes to bed around 7:45pm. I am planning on keeping him on pacific time since we will only be visiting for seven (7) days, anything over seven days I recommend slowly moving them to the local time or you may see just after a few days your child's body tends to adjust on its own. So, in my situation, I will let my little guy sleep in until 10am, do his nap at 3:30pm – 5:30pm, and then bedtime will be 10:30pm. I know this is late, but I would rather keep him on West Coast time to avoid adjusting him when we return which is much trickier going East to West.


If he is slightly off his times when we return, then I will work on getting him back on track and it may be easier if he is only off by an hour. I will need to go with the flow a little because if he does wake up earlier when we we are back east (say 9:00am) then instead of trying to get him to sleep in longer I will just move his nap earlier. The good thing is that I know he can handle 5.5 hours before naptime, and about 5-5.25 before bedtime. So it’s a simple calculation for me. I will also request that my parents ensure that the room we are sleeping in is PITCH BLACK. Children are very sensitive to light and even the least bit can arouse and wake them for the day.


Circa 2011 when I traveled on Christmas Day "alone" with my twin munchkins. They thought Christmas was the day before -- I didn't want to ruin their Christmas and they were so little they didn't know any different. BONUS: Flights are cheaper on Christmas Day


Traveling East to West...

If you are traveling East to West, or if you are returning home to the west coast after a trip to the east coast, here’s how to adjust. It’s a bit trickier (in my opinion). If your child is going to bed at 7:30pm east coast time, when they arrive on the west coast you’ll start to notice your little one appear very tired for bed quite early, around 5:00pm. It’s very important to work as *hard* as you can to keep your little one up to 7:30pm west coast time (or as close as possible). Take her outside to the park, expose them to light if possible – distract, distract, distract.


After you put them down to bed they will most likely be overtired, but the alternative is taking a chance of them waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day at 4:00am. It’s important to keep them in bed until their normal wake up time, or within 30 minutes of it. So for example, my little guy usually wakes up between 7/7:15am. When we return from Pennsylvania the earliest I am going to go to him is 7:00am to start his day. Maybe 6:45am if he fussing a lot, but you better believe I will do my best to get him right back on track.


Typically it does take slightly longer for kid’s to adjust going east to west unfortunately.

I hope you have found this post helpful – comment below if you have any questions.




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© 2019 by Desiree Baird, LLC
Pediatric Sleep Coach, Seattle WA

Disclaimer

Desiree Baird, pediatric sleep coach/consultant, does not offer medical advice, services, or treatment to its clients. If you are concerned about a medical issue related to your child(ren) you are urged to contact your doctor or pediatrician immediately.