No one has to tell you that jet lag is no fun. It’s tough on adults and teens. But when it comes to kids and jet lag, it can be absolutely terrible. Kids experiencing jet lag will be extremely out of sorts, cranky, and it can also cause their immune systems to take a beating due to the sleep problems that they develop from it. That is why you want to make sure that the intensity of jet lag that children experience after a long flight into a different time zone is as minimized as possible. The good news is, we have some excellent tips on how to manage jet lag in kids – read on!
1. Change The Bedtime Schedule At Least Three Days Before Departure
In order to minimize jet lag in children, one option is to change their bedtime to the same time where their destination would be at least 3 days before leaving. However, sometimes moving their bedtime would have to happen a week or two before going away if there is a huge time zone change.
You don’t want to do this drastically either, which means you will want to change their bedtime 15 to 20 minutes towards the vacation time days, or potentially a few weeks, before.
For instance, if you are living in New York City and you are planning a trip to Sydney, Australia with the kids, that is a 14 hour time difference. That means the best thing to do is to move the bedtime 15 to 20 minutes in the correct direction in the weeks leading up to the vacation.
You don’t have to worry about long term sleep deprivation with kids when going on long trips to places with a huge difference in time zones. Their circadian rhythms usually catch up in about 4 days naturally, and utilizing this change in bedtime method will help keep the jet lag to a minimum.
2. Pretend That You Are At The Destination Already Once You Are On The Plane
Once you are boarded on the plane with your kids, and you are off to Australia, you will want to pretend that you are there already. If it is 2 pm in New York City when you are boarded on the plane, then it is 4 am in Sydney Australia. This means it is the middle of the night in Sydney while it is the middle of the afternoon in New York. This means you will want your kids to take a nap while they are on the plane, ideally for a few hours.
Pull down the shade on the airplane window and even purchase some sleep masks for the kids which will make them think it is dark.
3. Prepare Yourself By Bringing Cozy Travel Pillows And Blankets
So we know that the best thing to do is to get the kids to sleep on the plane. That will not happen easily if they are not comfortable, especially in the airplane seats. You will want to make sure that you bring along cozy pillows and a blanket, so they have a better chance of taking a long nap while they are on the plane.
4. Stay Hydrated
It is incredibly important to stay as hydrated as possible while going on a long flight. In fact, a drink that is rich in electrolytes, such as Gatorade, is a good option for kids to drink. If you are concerned about the sugar content, then you can always water it down and they will still get enough electrolytes into their system. That is because being on a plane for a long period of time will cause anyone to be parched, and not being hydrated enough when making a big leap to another time zone will cause them to be even more out of sorts.
5. Consider Fish Oil
Kids and adults who take fish oil generally have fewer sleep problems, because it helps to promote blood circulation, which helps the entire body function better. If you haven’t been giving your kids fish oils all along, then you will want to check with their doctor and make sure that you start several weeks before taking that long flight!
6. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing
When you are taking the family on such a long flight, it is best to make sure that they wear clothing that is loose and comfortable, with breathable fabrics such as cotton. If the kids are comfortable in their clothes, they will have a better chance of relaxing.
7. Make Sure To Mark The First Day To The Destination As A Rest Day
Even if the kids have been going to bed earlier or later for weeks (depending on the destination), they will need to adjust to the new place and new time. This applies even if they got some good rest on the plane. Be sure to not plan to do much of anything on the first day of your vacation, just to get some rest and to adjust. The same goes when it comes to returning home, as you will want to make sure that the kids have a day, or perhaps even 2 days, to readjust.
As long as these 7 tips for reducing the intensity of jet lag are implemented, then your kids will be fine and that means you as well will be just fine. Jet lag may not be eliminated entirely, but the severity of it will be watered down quite a bit. Have a safe and enjoyable trip with the family!
Bio: Hannah Edmonds is a creative and enthusiastic freelance writer who has been loving this gig for 8 years now. Her personal mission is to encourage a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life experience for people through her writing, and this is her true passion.